Tales of Nostalgia: Grandma’s Perfume

I sat helplessly on my bed, not sure what to feel, and uncertain why I couldn’t feel.

The clock struck about 1:30, as I looked at my father’s call that I had missed. There could be several reasons behind him calling so early in the morning. He must’ve been checking his phone, only to accidentally dial me. Or something could’ve happened. My heart starts to race as the blood begins to rush past my ears; my mother. Why else would he call like this, not even talking? Something must have happened to her, were they taking her to the hospital, would I have a chance to say goodbye? A million questions came to mind, but I dwelled on none long enough to consider the possibility of having lost my mom.

Gathering some courage, I text my father.

“Dad, is everything okay?”

To no one’s surprise, I don’t receive an answer. Maybe he did dial my number accidentally. I try to calm myself down, by starting the music again and going back to my writing, but something just doesn’t sit well with me. I pick my phone back up, and text my sister, asking if everything was alright.

“Ma, just passed away.”

The breath gets knocked out of me. My mother is dead. But then, she calls.

“What happened to mama?” I demand to know.

“It’s not mama, its Ammi ji,” she sounds like she’s been crying, “she just passed away. Our grandma is dead.”

In the next few moments, quite a few things happen. I sharply inhale and exhale, but this time in relief. My mother isn’t dead, my mother is okay. Before the relief even sets in, the realization hits me.

It’s my dad who lost his mom.

At first, I’m not sure what to feel. We didn’t always get along well, but when we did…those were the days. As the first stream of tears hit me, I thought back to my childhood. She always had a preference for my sister, but that didn’t mean she neglected me, she was simply more used to my elder sibling. I wouldn’t begrudge her that. Some memories stood out more than others.

It had been years since we’d gone out shopping together. The last I could remember of it was when I was eight years old, before our summer trips to her house stopped. She could stand up straight back then, an impressive sight for a woman of her height. Over six feet tall, the woman not only loomed above most people, she could easily intimidate most of them too. One of her complaints towards old age had been her inability to walk long distance, without hunching over and needing breaks.

“Shopping isn’t the same anymore,” she would often sigh, “I can’t walk around like I used to. It’s no fun now that I can’t take my time looking at things.”

Another memory stood out from among others.

The sight of her throwing out old cosmetics and placing new ones on her shelves, and in her cabinets; she didn’t much like throwing away cosmetics, a true hoarder. She was an odd one, my grandma. A part of our culture, and she often acted like it too, but had her own little ways of rebelling against the set system. So many women, as they grew old within our family, forgot to take care of themselves. Clothes, jewelry, makeup, accessories, all of this didn’t matter much to them. Grandma was an entirely different case. She would wake up, shower, put on clean clothes, and begin her routine. Moisturizers, eye creams, and an assortment of skin care products could be found around her. I liked that about her.

Sitting on that charpai of hers, golden watch glinting in the sun, I missed going downstairs to give her a hug. I would fall into her arms, let out a long groan and wait for her to stroke my hair and playfully ask me,

“What is bothering my child, today?”

I would take my time telling her, making it as humorous as possible – old people need to laugh more, you know – as I would breathe in her scent. A fresh wave of tears hit me as her scent surrounded me for a second, before leaving sorrow in its wake. I longed for the scent to come back, going so far as to try and remember the name of her perfume. To no avail, I couldn’t remember what she smelled like anymore. My childhood had been snatched away from me.

In loving memory of my grandmother,

20th February, 2019. 

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