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Rock Street, San Francisco

 There he is,
resting on his bed. The machine keeps beeping every other second, monitoring
his heart rate. I forget I am in his bedroom and not in a hospital. You can
hear his heavy breathing echoing the room. He lifts his eyelids sluggishly but
his eyes remain fixed, looking straight out of the window, unable to move. He isn’t
the granddad I knew. He doesn’t look up to check who has come into the room. Have
I become a ghost to him now? How did his health suddenly deteriorate so much?

Granddad never met the
stereotypical image of a grandparent. I would never associate words like boring
and old with him. His mere presence bought a smile to my face. His tall, six foot
figure would tower over me but it would never intimidate me. My mother used to
say that everyone back home would fear my granddad. It was not only his height
but his anger. He had the shortest temper. His rage was like lightning out of a
blue sky. Granddad was dark complexioned and always had an exceedingly proud
and attractive expression. His grey hair was always finely combed and the
streaks were always evident. His voice was sometimes slow and he stumbled on
his words occasionally. At times he was overtaken by emotions that had been
buried for decades and he would stop. Every time I would meet him he always was
bursting with energy, eager to joke around and narrate all his countless
stories of the past.  

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Now, it feels almost strange
remembering the last time I saw granddad in his energetic form. It was during
the summer of 2009, my second visit to Bangladesh.

As soon as I stepped out of the
airport, the heat scorched my body. It was only early in the morning but the
sun beat down. The air was like breathing liquid fire. After an hour in the
taxi, there was still a five minute walk to granddads village. As we wheeled
our luggage into our granddad’s village, the spell of ground spices and curry
made my stomach rumble.  Women wearing
cotton sarees were drying their clothes out in the blazing sun. I thought to
myself, these clothes will be toasted in this glorious sunshine. Everyone was
smiling and greeting us as we walked by. As we moved further into the village,
there were children running about enjoying themselves.

I saw a tallish figure in the
distance, waving in excitement. The figure was getting closer and closer. It
was granddad standing with his arms wide open with the greatest smile on his
face. As I hugged him, the warmth of this hug made me forget the scorching heat.
He sat us down inside his house and the moment I slid into my chair I was served
an enormous platter of food. Later that day he took me and my sister to the
village shop and told us that we could eat whatever we wished to our heart’s
content.

I now understand why granddad
would talk hours and hours regarding Bangladesh. The simple life seemed so
attractive and interesting. These people were able to live such simple lives
without technology, yet be so content. While our lives now revolve around
technology, we forget those most important to us. We tend to forget the true
meaning of life, of family. Granddad lived such a simple and happy life for
many years in Bangladesh and taking him out of his comfortable environment
caused him agony which he never realised.

The sudden shift in his health
startled me.  It was due to this he left his
homeland and moved to London. I remember him complaining to my aunt ‘Why have
you taken me to this polluted country?
This environment will never make me better, I know that for sure! Eventually,
he adjusted to the new environment and in the holidays I would to visit him at
my aunts. When I visited him, he didn’t look sick. His stories of Bangladesh
would last days. He would be able to take the stairs unaided and seemed to have
a sharp memory despite being in his eighties. Then I stopped going to see him
due to the pressure of GCSE’S.

 A good year went by and all exams were
finished. I made a visit to see granddad in the Christmas holidays. My aunt
told me that he could no longer go to the toilet unaided or even remember
anybody’s names. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  My aunt alone could not look after him;
nurses had to come every morning and evening to look after him. All he would do
would be to sleep the entire day and stay inside his room with the curtains
closed.

All these thoughts made me forget
that granddad is lying beside me. I try and communicate with him ‘Hi granddad
remember me, your favourite grandchild?
He continues to stare at me. He says nothing. I keep trying but nothing
miraculous happens. I stare at his deep wrinkles which seem to carve a map of
his life on his still facial features. His eyes are framed by white eyebrows
and on his stubble chin are white whiskers. Where is the granddad I knew?

Is that what old age does to a
person? It makes you turn into a completely different person. One day, you are
yourself and the next you are unrecognisable. You are no longer strong but
frail and must rely on others to help you do the basic necessities of life. It feels
like a daunting experience pondering what old age will do to me. But we are
here for a couple of days, life is not guaranteed. Like a flower we will lose
petals and one day we will be gone. Each day we must make the most of our time.
Without death, life would go largely unappreciated. Life is a blessing, death
it’s preservation. Live for every waking moment, before it is too late. 

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