This morning I felt upset with Wifey for pulling a long face. Then I saw tears well in her eyes. It frustrated me even more when I asked her what was wrong but received no satisfactory reply. After a few quiet moments, she said:
“I miss my grandma.”
Then I motioned her to come close to me and held her, thinking back to the day her grandmother passed away.
It has been 2 years and 4 days since her grandmother left us. And 12 years since the last set of grandparents of mine left us. Yet, lately I have been thinking a lot of them, and of friends I have lost along the way. My maternal grandfather passed away in February of 1998, a month before my expedition to the North Pole left Malaysia, while my maternal grandmother left us in September the same year. When they died, I lost the very two people whom had stood by me when I was down, and whenever the world seemed against me. And three months later, when I went for my minor pilgrimage (Umrah), I would perform the Umrah for them after completing the obligatory one for myself, for my paternal grandparents, my late uncle Ainuddin (my father’s younger brother who apparently played football together with my friend Renek’s father), my late Auntie Zahariah (my mom’s younger sister), and my late elder sister, Juliana. I did this every year for four years, culminating in my Haj pilgrimage in March 2001. At one point while still in Mecca, I dreamt of my grandmother, her feet covered in blood, trying to clamber up a hill after my late grandfather. She turned to look at me and asked me for help. I got up, went to the mosque and prayed for her.
Just a couple of weeks ago after having a bout of anxiety, I had a vivid dream of an old friend of mine, Jamsuri Hashim, who was the telephone supervisor at the then-Air Force Air Training Command HQ in Tanjung Bungah, Penang. We became so close that when I was going to marry my first ex, he became my spokesman. He had this banged-up white 1968 Volvo 144S, the kind you could see in P Ramlee movies. It was in that car that he, another late friend of ours and also my Warrant Officer Abd Rahman Said (Rahman Senget), my Flight Sergeant Zakaria Din, and I, would go in for late night Char Kuey Teow sessions at Tanjung Bungah. I last saw him back in 1996 or 1997 after he had retired, by that time his eyesight was about gone because of cataract. Rahman left us in 1996, apparently a victim of his ex-mother-in-law’s magic spell (I saw how he puked out a 6-inch corroded nail along with other crazy stuff) when he underwent traditional treatment.
In that dream, I traveled with Jamsuri inside his white Volvo to a food court. But instead of having food at the food court, he got some pre- packed Char Kuey Teow, laid down some newspapers for us to sit on, and there we were, having a picnic by the drain next to the food court talking about old times. I don’t know what the dream meant, but I remember telling him I had to get and and go, and when I woke up, my heart felt heavy and sadness engulfed me.
And this all brings me back to my mention of Heraclitus’s Panta rei in my previous posting of the same title mashed up with the interpretation by Plato:
Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.
Everything changes and nothing remains still.
We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.