Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving Away The Memories

On the 17th floor of my building, lives an old man.

He does not live alone. He stays with his two grown up sons. Their wives. Their kids. It is a big family. There should not be any reason to be lonely. Or feel empty. But I think he does. Every evening when he goes for a walk, I can see it in his eyes. He is lonely and sad. And this feeling has nothing to do with his large family.
He may have a lot of people in his life but the person who mattered the most, his wife, died a few months ago. And ever since, he has not been the same.

We all have different ways of coping with grief. Some cry. Some deal with it with dry eyes. Our ways may be different but we all feel this profound sadness. We all feel a deep emptiness that descends on us when we lose a loved one. This old man I know, does not keep his grief bottled up. He talks about her to people he meets in the elevator, in the park, in the grocery store. He tells us about the wonderful years he had with his wife. His helplessness towards the end of her illness. His relief when he realized she has passed away and was incapable of feeling any more pain. He talks a lot. And sympathetic neighbours, some strangers, some not, listen to this old man's ramble.

Few days back, he called me while I was walking in the park.
"Do you tie your hair?" When I said that I do indeed tie up my short hair occasionally, he handed me a shiny object.
"Keep this then, it will look good on you." I opened my palm to find a rather tacky looking hair clip And I knew. I knew instantly that he has begun the painful process of going through her stuff. Bits of items that were once precious to her. Hair clips. Bags. CDs. Stuff that he will  never use in his life, stuff that perhaps his daughters in law do not want,  he has started handing them over to utter strangers. These things are no longer useful to him. But he can not bear to throw them away.. So he gives them away, hoping some stranger will honour these silly items and somewhere, somehow, his wife's belongings and with them her memories, will live on.

I know I will never use this clip. It is neither pretty nor serviceable. Moreover, it does not even hold any sentimental value for me. What will I do with this? Perhaps I will give it away to my domestic help. Or I will give it to a street kid in need of a hair pin. No matter what I do, I know the lady will live in her husband's mind.

Just because you get rid of something does not mean you lose the memories.








31 comments:

Ritu said...

Poignant - I think bereavement is something that is too huge to be handled alone.

Smita said...

very well said dear!!!

And i feel sad for the man :(

Jyothi said...

Memories will always remain. They never go away. Touching story. It makes us realize that, its only our life partner who will remain with us till the end. The habit of having your partner around, even if its to fight and quarrel and then make up, is very difficult to let go. :D

rama said...

A very touching story told very beautifully. I know how it feels to lose a loved one, for I am seeing my father go through it.
But please don't give that clip to the maid for he might see it on her and might feel very hurt. Give it to someone who is not likely to seen by him wearing his wife's hair clip.
I can understand your not liking it.
Very nicely written.

Scribby said...

keep that hair pin with you Aparna..it will take only a tiny space isn't it ? You'll good about keeping it with you no matter that you'll never use it!

Scribby said...

*you'll feel good...

Aparna said...

Ritu, I agree, grief is difficult to handle alone. But sometimes not everybody may share the same bond.

Smita, same here, I really feel bad for him.

Jyothi, I've seen my mother in law struggle to get on with life after the death of my father in law. It is very difficult to let go.

Rama, I'm still thinking what to do with it...

Scribby,yet to decide what to do with the clip. It is just sitting there.

Kavi said...

It wrenched a part of me as i read this. It was so well described that it left me shaking my head...!

This is so touching and ofcourse, memories will remain. Will say a prayer for the man..!

kirti said...

aparna,
i am sad for the man.
Its kind of strange that we associate too much of importance to the material things to be kept as memories, whreas a life time together is too big a thing to be wrapped in material possessions.

crackedchronicles said...

This really left me comment-less for a change :( :(

Sharmila said...

Please don't give it to your domestic help ... I mean what if he sees it? Might sadden him more.
He has a family and yet is sad ... I just hope somebody gives him a little time at home.

PURN!MA said...

I feel sad for grandpa. and i agree with Rama.. plz don't give it to your maid... he might see it one day and feel more dejected.

sm said...

thoughtful touching story

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

What a touching story. My heart reaches out to the elderly man, praying for him and his grieving.

Doris

Sandhya said...

Felt very sand while reading this, Aparna! Yes, it is very dreadful when you lose your spouse and have to carryon with life, esp. when you are retired and don't have anything to keep yourself busy.

I feel women cope up better because they are always busy with housework of some sort, but for men, it is more difficult. They have to just live with memories.

Onkar said...

So well-written.

dr.antony said...

Memories warp and fade,never die.

It is much easy to say 'forget',but it is easier not to be born !

C'est Moi said...

Touchy,and somehow very real- for everyone,,,

The Holy Lama said...

The simple act of your receiving the gift would have meant a whole lot to that old man. In our building lives an army widow who lost her husband in the Kargil war, has a son in the army and and a daughter married to a navy. I wish her for the new year, give couple of toffees, walk with her around the building or just smile at her in the elevators. I t has created a sort of invisible bond.

sm said...

emotional thoughtful post,
yes everyone goes through this

Toyin O. said...

What a sad story, praying for that old man:)

Nikita Banerjee said...

Gosh...what would we do without memories? I took my thakurma's shidoor kouto as my own [just got married]. I wouldn't trade that one for anything.

Nona said...

It is an emotional post.

sangeeta said...

I felt sad reading this.... i know what it is grieving for a lost loved one. The belongings keep reminding about the moments spent together and it becomes unbearable for some people. I hope the gentleman gets somebody to share his thoughts thoughtfully...will be therapy for him.

Came to this blog after a long time . Hope you have been great.

Bikramjit said...

so ver ytrue you cant forget the memories give away everything .. How can you give away that TINGE the feeling that comes to ur heart each time you think of the person .. you cant...

memories yepppp they stick with you all the time ...

Bikram's

Anu said...

This reminds me of a situation I faced recently when an old neighbour of ours handed over his diary filled with descriptions of temples to me just because he knew I was interested in them... and the fact that it happened right in front of his entire family was rather embarrassing too.... all i could do was thank him and keep it carefully at home... and wonder what his daughter in law thought about it :)

neeraj said...

I read the mother-daughter post first, but I like this even more. The way you choose to say it, it creates a deep impression on those reading.

Jyoti Joshi Mitter said...

at times simple incidents of life leave such a strong impression on you ! Very well written..nicely and aptly described !

blunt edges said...

Death sucks, big time!
Probably my biggest fear is losing my loved ones.

Maybe getting rid of things doesn't erase memories, but don't you think keeping things that remind you of someone will just make the process more lengthy and painful. I think he has started the healing process. I wish him well.

Almostpundit said...

"Just because you get rid of something does not mean you lose the memories." I will remember this line..and when I recall, I shall again relive the pleasure of reading your blog.

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