Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas was blaring out of the speakers above my head as I waded through the aisles of shingly wrapped perfumes and luxurious cosmetics. If only money could buy you happiness, I thought as I scanned the shelves. I would have bought the whole lot, re-mortgaged our house and bought the darn bloody Dutyfree Shop, if only it could make my grandmother happy.
But the only thing she wants is the one I can’t give her. Not that she’d ever ask for anything. She never asks me to come again or more often or to bring the whole family. She only smiles a forced little smile, one that she can bear given the bruises and the swelling on her face.
Seeing her like that, so soon after her fall, was heart breaking. I didn’t want to cry, didn’t want to make her feel sad in any way, but I might not have succeeded. It was ok after the first 20 minutes; I managed to be happy again and hopefully have left a bit of my happiness in that sterile hospital room.
There’s something humbling and very grounding about visiting my grandmother. It makes me realise what’s really important in life and that all can be nothing if you are missing the basic things: company, compassion and a little bit of a human touch.
I can get quite upset about the fact that my mother and my stepfather dragged my grandmother from her house when she was at her most vulnerable after losing her husband. She ended up at a place where she didn’t know anyone, under the pretence of being cared for by my mother – who stopped showing up when it became clear that the inheritance wasn’t up for grabs yet. Most of my grandmother’s possessions landed on the skip. The faded, pale blue China that I had sipped milky sweet coffee from whenever I had run away from the place that never deserved the name home. The many diaries that my grandma had written back in the days. The photographs that document my brother’s and my early childhood, banned by my mother because they also show our father.
I am trying not to get upset about the fact that I would have liked to hold on to some of these things. I don’t really need them to keep my grandmother’s memory alive. After all, I am carrying her name (her first name, Klara, is my middle name). My grandmother has made me the person I am today. My stepfather used to yell at me ‘You are like your f****** gran!’ What was meant to be an insult soon became a comforting thought. It’s all I ever wanted to be.