Stories to Stir your Soul...

The Grandson - Suraj Kamath

( The basic facts are that I'm 24, an engineer, likely to be unemployed within 3 months, only
marginally tolerant of authority, deemed by most to have fallen off the tightrope into the realm
of insanity sometime around 2001. I read like crazy, do some meditation, work out intermittently,
have an eclectic taste in music, and have been writing on and off the last few years.
That, I hope, will be enough for an introduction. :)
Homepage : http://surajkamath.blogspot.com

"Yes, your grandfather was a fine man, a fine man indeed." The old lady had a sweet voice and a face that crinkled in a hundred little lines around her eyes when she smiled, which was often. But she wasn’t my grandmother. She didn’t know that though. For her I was her very own grandson, a fine upstanding young man who came to see her every day. I had seen her today for the first time in my life.

"She's got Alzheimer's." The nurse told me before I went in. "She'll probably think you're her son, or her grandson. Just go along with it. Don’t upset her. She's really a very sweet lady."

"What about her real son and grandson?" I asked.

"Son's dead, Grandson will probably come back to claim her body when she's gone, if even that. She's completely alone. It’s a shame, really. She deserved better." She gave a resigned shrug of her shoulders and walked off.

I was there at the old age home because I was at the end of my rope myself. I figured maybe if I helped someone else for a while, I could forget about my own screwed up life. My aunt was the director of the home, and she was always telling me to come and help out. She never really expected that I would, but what the heck, miracles do happen.

Its strange that I would ever feel like this. Me, the iceman, the rock, the android, laid low by relationship trouble. Well, shit happens. Sometimes even a person like me, with supposedly no feelings, finds that he has some, and worse, that he's actually a romantic at heart. Its hard dealing with that at short notice. Especially when you begin to see that there are actually very few romantics left today. Makes you feel like you're on an endangered species list.

Well, my aunt is a very astute person, good at reading people and moods, and she sent me to this lady who thinks I'm her grandson. And all I'm supposed to do is listen to her and nod once in a while.

"You remember how your grandfather and I met?" the old lady asked. I shook my head. "Liar." She said leaning forward and caressing my face with both hands in what I assume is a very grandmotherly gesture. "I've told you so many times. Why don’t you just ask if you want to hear it again?" I smiled as she released my face and sat back in her chair next to the window. I dragged my chair closer and sat leaning forward, elbows on my knees and resting my chin on the back of my hands, so I could hear her better. I hoped that was a grandson-like pose. I wouldn’t really know, since I'd never really known any of my grandparents.

"We met when we were in college. He was one of the quiet studious fellows in the front rows no one ever remembers except at exam time. I was a nutcase who flirted with all the guys and drove the professors mad. I never gave him a second glance. He was reasonably good looking, but not in my league at all." She said this so matter-of-factly that in a strange way, my male ego was hurt. I guess I could've just as easily fit that description.

"One day, I was in this terrible fix with my assignments, and I was almost in tears in the library, trying to complete them all. He just came over, sat down and started drawing diagrams for me. He didn’t even introduce himself, or ask or anything. He just silently drew one after the other until they were all done, flashed me a broad smile, hefted his bag over his shoulder and left. I was so zapped I completely forgot to thank him.

I thought that he'd come and start talking to me after that, but he never did. We sometimes caught each others eye across the hall, but he'd just grin and look away. He never tried to come near me. I was highly irritated with him. I mean, there was this beautiful girl clearly inviting him to talk, at least for courtesy's sake, and this darned helpful goof just wouldn’t. I also felt obliged, and I wanted to say thanks and get it over with.

I finally caught him reading under a tree in the campus grounds. I sat down next to him, and got that goofy grin again. I waited for him to say something but the idiot just went back to his book. I wanted to say thank you. It came out 'Do you even know how to talk?' in the most irritated tone I possessed.

'Well, yes' he answered 'when the situation demands it.'

'Well, it demands it now. Why wont you talk to me?'

'Let's see... we've been in the same class for a while now. You never spoke to me either. I just thought you didn’t want to.'

'But that was when I thought you were a damn .. ' I caught myself in time. I always put my foot in my mouth, don’t I dear? Your grandfather always teased me about that." the old lady smiled showing all those cute little lines. I didn’t say anything, so she continued.

"Your grandfather smiled. 'A damn what?' he said 'Geek? I am, there's no denying that. Look, if you just want to say thank you and get it off your chest, do it and get going. If you want to talk to me, be prepared to hear about geeky stuff.'

'Like what?' I asked. 'What are you reading anyways?'

'Dostoyevsky. `The Idiot`.'

'Dust of what?'

'Dos-toy-yev-skee. Russian author. Very insightful.'

'What's it about?'

'About this very simple man who begins to love a woman who’s torn between her love for him and her intense desire to punish herself for a shame that is truly not her fault.'


He smiled. "Too heavy?'

'Much too heavy. When you finish, tell me how it ends.'

'I can tell you now. I'm reading it the second time. It ends in tragedy. She's killed by a man who only wanted to possess her, and when he realised that he could never really own her he killed her. The man brings Myshkin, the simple idiot, to see her body, and his love and pity for both the woman and her murderer is so great that it drives him back into the madness that turned him into an idiot in the first place.'

'Typical. All love stories end in tragedy. This love shove thing is just a stupid joke.'

'I take it you don’t believe in love.'

'There's no such thing as love. You just get used to people. After a while, when you get used to a person enough, you think its not such a bad idea to say you're in love with him, that’s all'

he started laughing. 'that’s a novel thought. Are you used to anyone right now?'

'No' I said. 'I know too many people to get used to any one now. What about you?'

'I'm afraid I'm not a person people can get used to. They find it hard to get used to me.'

'why?' I asked.

'I'm not quite sure. Maybe because I read books like these. Maybe because I believe there is something called love, and there is a way to love someone so that you don’t get up every morning and think, heck, I'm just used to her being there next to me.'

'My god, you're a romantic' I teased.

He laughed. 'A geek and a romantic. Guess you're never going to get used to me either.'

I just kept laughing and he gave me this wistful, slightly sad smile. He went back to reading and I got up silently and went away. That was how your grandfather and I met."

The old lady was still smiling as a tear crept down her cheek. I wiped it away on impulse. She caught my hand and kissed it. "You look very different from him, more like my own father. But you have the same sort of heart. You were always such a loving child. I'm so glad you still come to see me."

"But how did you and grandpa get along after that?" I asked, fighting to keep the lump in my throat from showing in my voice. The iceman never shows emotion.

"Well, He used to sit there under that tree everyday after college, and I would go and sit there and talk to him. Slowly I got used to his smile, and his books and his thoughts and all his funny emotions. He made me laugh so much, I couldn’t help getting used to him."

"And he got used to you too?" I asked her.

"No. He fell in love with me. He always believed in love." She was crying freely now.

"I'm sorry" she said, as I took out my handkerchief. "Its just that I miss him so much these days. I never thought anyone could get so used to anyone else. Funny how this love-shove joke usually gets the last laugh."

"You need to rest now." I said "You've tired yourself out with so much talk." I helped her to the bed and tucked her in. I kissed her on the forehead and turned to leave.

"You know, you're just like your grandfather." She said sleepily. "The same kind of heart. Your father and mother weren't like that, but you got your grandfather's heart."

I turned and kissed her again. "Get some rest" I said. "I'll come and see you again soon."

I walked out into a cold winter evening, and I stood at the entrance of the home watching people walk past. I was trying hard not to let that lump in my throat get the better of me. It was strange. I had lived through a hard childhood, an abusive home, a death, and an ice age within myself. I had done things I was ashamed of, said words that need not have been said, hurt people who had never deserved to be hurt.

And yet, for this sweet old lady, I had inherited my grandfather's heart.

- Suraj Kamath


At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

would a person with alzheimer's remember her past? maybe you could have simply made her visually handicapped or at most "cranky" for not being able to recognise her grandson.

anyways the rest of the story hangs out pretty well...u have a future in writing my friends...carry on. hope to read more from you.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Suraj Kamath said...

*Laughing* Well, Alzheimers in the beginning stages is more a loss of temporal awareness, and general fogginess. It progresses slowly into the darkness of total memory loss. At least that's the way I understood Alzheimer's. I may be wrong. Shall Look it up. Thanks for pulling me up on research. Its something I really dont do enough.

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Vj - vjwpf2@yahoo.co.in said...

quite interesting! touching, at times, and has a superb ending.

good work!

At 12:19 AM, Blogger arundhoti said...

A touching story that tells more of the anguish of a young man when confronted with a loving word he thinks he doesn't deserve, than the anguish of an old woman
facing a deadly disease. In its simple style the story brings out that sometimes life is more painful than death. A real nice piece.


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