I first noticed it one evening in May. My grandparents’ bedroom door was ajar and I couldn’t resist peeping in. As soon as I realised what it was, I was reduced to tears.
But for me to tell the story right, I feel I need to take you back. One year, to be precise.
Last summer, right before my graduation, my family and myself said goodbye to my beloved grandfather. He was a purist. A striking, sinewy figure, speaking with a resonant voice. He was a man who lived in the pursuit of the grand epic but never forgot the heart beating within.
My grandmother, by contrast, is a small, beautiful firestorm of motion and a relentless traveller that has onlookers gawking. She cared for my grandfather for over 30 years and in return, she had found sanctuary in his arms that were strong as steel girds.
During their time together, my grandmother had undergone a minor kidney surgery. I remember vividly, my grandfather sashaying across the waiting room with flowers in one hand and a smile on his face. As she laid confined to her hospital bed, he gazed down at her and said, ‘you are not going anywhere without me.’ He couldn’t bare the thought of existing without her.
What they shared was a heart-pounding, loin-churning love. The kind of love I can only hope to hold onto one day.
Naturally, after his passing my grandmother found herself marooned in their home, mourning and struggling to gain a toehold in this unfamiliar life. Which is why, on one hot day in May I moved to my grandparents’ house with thirteen mismatched suitcases. I put myself in top form and became wickedly witty and funny.
But deep down, I could feel my grandma yearning for his presence – his presence that was felt through a hand held, a voice heard, a smile seen. “He was…”, my grandmother said with a tired voice, “a great man.” I stared into her pain-contorted face and convinced her to get some sleep.
While I was busy moving around museum-quality furniture for my photography project, everything suddenly came to a standstill. In my grandparents’ bedroom, at the end of the hall, light cast restless shadows across the ceiling. My grandmother sleeping sideways. Her nightgown billowed towards the floor like a ship’s sail. And right next her, on my grandfather’s pillow… she placed a photograph of my grandfather, so his face would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.
Stunned, I sat there for several minutes. Tears streamed down my cheeks and all I could think of was about Plato’s Symposium. It is true that we are all halves wandering around, seeking one another.
And now, I am certain that true love exists. But I am also certain that love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost. █