Remission

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June 2000

We had just landed. I could smell that scent which I had labeled as “India.” Walking down the ramp and into the baggage claim area, I was reminiscing about my previous trip thinking of all the fun things I was ready to do with my cousins and relatives. “This trip is going to be even more fun than the last one!” I thought to myself. Little did I know what was going ahead of me. After lugging the 6 large suitcases all the way to the parking lot, I greeted my family with warm, loving hugs. It’s been 2 years since I’ve last seen them. I got into the big, white car getting ready to head to my grandma’s house, when my uncle’s phone rang. It wasn’t even 2 seconds into the call and all I could read on his face was panic. “It’s eleven o’clock at night, what could possibly be going on?” was going through my head. Without saying a word to me, my mom or my sister, my uncle tells the driver to head to CARE Hospital. Suddenly, worry was flowing through my blood and from what I could see, my mother’s too. Not only was my mind tired from jetlag, but now filled with panic. I could not get myself to formulate a sentence asking what was going on. Before I even tried to speak, my uncle turned around and told us that my great-aunt wasn’t feeling well and an ambulance was rushing her to the hospital in the city, a good 3 hour drive from her village. We had reached the hospital before them and all we could do was sit and wait.

August 2000

I knew the end of my long vacation was ending, and that I had to get back to the realities of school and work. I wasn’t going to let that thought sit in my mind and ruin the last few days. My great-aunt was in bed, along with my aunt. She wasn’t responding to the chemo as the doctors had hoped. It had to muster up a lot of courage to go sit with her and just talk to her. Seeing her hairless head, circles under her eyes, darker than the night sky and a weak smile that seemed to be pinned on her face was difficult for me. But her strength and willingness to fight helped me see past the outside and talk to my favorite relative. She was the sweetest, most selfless person I knew, she didn’t deserve this. After taking a nap she seemed to have more energy than ever, which caused a domino effect of smiles along all our faces. My grandma, mom, aunt, uncles and cousins all sat in the family room with her, spending as much time as possible. During one of the lulls in the conversation my great aunt sat up and said, “Sanjana, you like my shrimp. I think I’ll make it for you today!” At first the thought of eating my great aunt’s famous shrimp decorated my head until I thought and said, “No, please don’t! I don’t want you to be worn out after all that cooking!” to which I had received several approving nods from family member. But of course she wouldn’t take it, “What nonsense!” she said, “I have plenty of energy in me, I’m making shrimp whether you all like it or not.” No one could refuse her order. That evening I had the best shrimp ever; little did I know that it was going to be my last time.

August 2001

“Grandma, can you make egg curry today?” I had to make use of my grandma’s amazing cooking skills before she left in a week. She’s getting old and I didn’t know how many more times she’d be able to come visit us. I was sitting at the kitchen table playing my game boy to let the time pass. Something didn’t feel right about that day. I had a small inkling wandering my mind, which I had questioned several times. Everyone at my house that day had just told me I was crazy. That evening it was time for the call to India, we called everyday when my grandma was here because everyone in India missed her terribly. But this time instead of us calling, we had received a call from them significantly earlier. I didn’t think much of it at the moment when I took the phone and answered. It was my uncle and his voice was dull, he immediately demanded I give the phone to my mom. Confused I handed her the phone and went back to my computer to continue my game. Less than five minutes later, I felt a weight of silence fill the house, my mom and my grandma were in her room and my dad was slowly coming down the hallway to mine. It all slowly clicked in my head what had happened when my dad stood my door and said, “Your great-aunt passed away this morning,” and just walked away. It was at that moment that my mind processed everything. The weight of silence I had felt was the sobs of my grandma and mom, who longed to be in India at that very moment. I was staring at my instant message window on my computer, and suddenly I felt a lump in my throat and my vision slowly fading.

June 2002

We were back in India for our 2 year visit. It was not the same and I knew it never would be. We stayed on the firm bed that my great aunt was using 2 years earlier. A strange emptiness was lingering in the room. I couldn’t handle it; I had to move to a different room. Yet all I could think about was my previous trip and all that I had done with her. Sitting on the swing while she insisted on doing my hair, teaching my how to properly tie a sari on myself, making her wonderful and spicy shrimp, and watching all my different dances, I knew they were times I could only relive in my memories. Although I was reminiscing, I still had a slight feeling of denial in my head. It was like I couldn’t believe she wasn’t there. Every night, I dreamt that the past 2 years had all been a dream and I was going to wake up any minute and she would be walking through the front door. I felt like I was the only one going through these emotions but my mom was not very good at hiding the same ones. She had known my great aunt for all her life, she was her second mother. It was times like these that brought us close; we would sit on the swing just thinking about her, just thinking to ourselves “Why?”





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