I have written about my grandmother before, but I thought I would share some of the lessons I learnt from being her carer in my early twenties.
I have learnt that Sabr is everything. My grandmother lived through war, partition, poverty, a real tough mother-in-law and loneliness when my Grandfather came to Britain to work. After all of the hardship, she is the head of a growing, working, achieving family and has nothing to do but pray and reflect. It all comes to an end. After all of the difficulties, one day ease comes.
I have learnt that love can endure like nothing else. I idolized my generous, courageous grandfather, but often brilliant people are not easy to live with. My late grandfather was not the most sweet-natured of husbands, yet after a long lifetime of volcanic tantrums, separation due to immigration, hardship and eventually plenty, she idolizes him too. She prays for him every day, finishes Quran after Quran for him, praises him to anyone that will listen, tells us stories about him and declares “he was a king amongst men, you don’t find people like that anymore”. After a long life fraught with difficulties, what has endured is the love she feels for him.
From watching her I have learnt about how frustrating it is when you are used to being fit, active and very busy and then find that your body doesn’t listen to what you are telling it to do anymore.
She brought home to me that I might not always be as invincible as I think, that a time comes when our bodies are no longer our allies, when people who would previously be enraptured by you might now take you for a fool. But I also learnt that even when your looks and health are gone, you can still rule over your home, your clan and your community through the influence of your wisdom, your love, your stories and your
I have learnt that beauty isn’t exclusive to youth, thinness or paleness. Gran is wrinkly, grey-haired, covered in age spots and has no teeth of her own, but when she opens her little braid, she has the loveliest orange shoulder-length curls. The vanity doesn’t entirely leave either, the skin creams just give way to hair oil, tweezers and E45.
I have learnt that after a certain age selective deafness can come in very useful. Don’t want to answer awkward questions? Someone annoying you? Someone trying to be cheeky or insulting? Just look at the ceiling and walls, then turn around twizzle your finger in your ear and say “Oh did you say something, I’m a bit deaf on this side.”
Looking after waddi-ammi (big-mum) was hard, even harder than taking care of my little ones, but the rewards have been as great and who knows maybe my children have learnt something about how to treat me when I am old and selectively-deaf.