Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I've been helping my grandmother to shower for the last few days as part of my shift duties. We're in between maids at the moment and the new maid will only arrive later this week. In the meantime, my aunties and I are taking turns to go on shift duties.

Don't be mistaken. Grandma, who is a perfectly healthy 90 years old lady, is capable of taking care of herself but she does need that little help.

Like holding the shower head whilst she cleans herself (vigorously too, I must add), helping her to take off and put on her clothes etc.

Standing behind her, seeing her wrinkled body, a strange feeling came over me.

I remember the countless times when she bathed me when I was very young. Grandma is 50 years older than me, so I guess she would have been in her 50's when she appears in my earliest memory.

My grandmother is a very strong woman.

She has to be.

She arrived in Singapore when she was in her early 20's. I don't know much about her hisory, only that she came in search of her husband, my grandfather. Like most early Chinese migrants then, they didn't have much money and had to work hard. Through the Japanese occupation and poverty years, she raised 6 children pretty much alone. You have to be strong to do that.

I remember her temper.. her flashing eyes when she got angry, her loud voice (she still has a very loud voice. I think it runs in the family), her sturdy body. I especially remember the few rare times when I was caned by her.

But I also remember her holding my hand as we crossed the road, buying toys for me at the 'pasar malam', and cooking my favourite food.

Then, grandma to me was a formidable woman. At times, I was even a little afraid of her. But I could always depend on her.

When did it start to be the other way round? When did she start to depend on me instead?

Where once she held my tiny hands in hers and coaxed me to see the doctor, now I hold her hands rough hands in mine when I bring her to the hospital for check-ups.

Where once she bathed me in a little tub, now I help her to shower whilst she sit on a stool in the bathroom.

Where once she would whipped up a few delicious dishes for lunch, now I help to put the food in a plate for her.

Where once she would hide her modesty by closing the door to change, now she couldn't care less that I could see every inch of her wrinkled, naked body.

Where once her word was law, now she listens to me.

In my teens, I used to feel so embarrassed to be seen together with her, wild horses couldn't drag me to go out with her. And yet for the last 15 years or so, I've been on holidays with her almost every year. She's been to Shanghai, Beijing, Su Zhou, Hang Zhou and Hong Kong etc.

When did this relationhip change?

I don't know either.

A person reverts back to childlike behaviour and thinking as one gets older. I guess now, grandma is the 'baby' and I'm the adult.

I'm not sure how grandma feels about this reversal of relationship. If you are a child, and you depend on adults, you don't mind because well, you don't understand and know much. But when you do know and understand, it's a little more difficult, isn't it?

In truth, I feel a little emotional and there is a slight tug in my heart as I write this and remember all those years long ago...which really, wasn't too long ago.

I'm not too sure what that little tug is for and who it is for.

Perhaps at the passage of time.

Perhaps at the the inevitable that will happen one day.

The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game


bb said...

nice one, this one. thanks for sharing, tiff.

last week when i was in the hospital, i too saw the young nurses bathing some old ladies. i remember wondering... perhaps some more years down the road, i would be doing the same for my parents, as they would have done for me when i was little. yea, full circle, like you said.

you like joni mitchell too? me too.

yeelee said...

i love this too
nice post!

u wrote something sentimental
while me just wrote about my stupidity!

Jos said...

can understand every word you wrote and how you feel. I said something similar to my dad yesterday ... fan2 lao3 huan2 tong2.

SOmetimes I just wish the time will stop or turn back the clock 20 years....

Anonymous said...

tiff, sniff sniff. tears start to form liao. as and when i read my heart also twitch......

julia :-(

HeippieH said...

Love to read it. Beautiful.

HeippieH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marissa said...

A beautiful one Tiff, made me miss my grandma who passed away when I was still in middle school.

mrs a said...

oh Tiffany that tug in your heart is the love that you and your grandma share! Embrace and cherish her time.

You wrote it so beautifully and with so much love running over. And it made me tear up. It wasn't until I had the same situation with my dearest friend (my Mom) that I saw the full circle of life.

We hear how Life is so fragile and precious but I don't think we always understand it until we reach this stage of life or a heartbreaking experience occurs.

Each little thing we do together will be tucked away in our hearts forever. "Right there in the corner" Right where you can always reach for it!" as my Mom use to say...

So cherish and enjoy the time! Someday,when you reach the winter of your life, you may wipe away a few cobwebs in your heart & reminisce. I am sure a smile will come about as you remember those special times you both shared, in childhood as well as adulthood!

Thanks so much for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tiff,

Thanks for sharing!

It made me miss my grandmother too and it's her anniversary soon.

sniff sniff =(

the silent JC

Toujours_BYJ said...

Hi Tiff
What a beautiful post ! My grandma passed away when I was very young, I never know what you've shared with your grandma.
Thanks for sharing with us and please enjoy these precious moments.

tiffany said...

bb- in a way, if there are opportunities to be able to do the same things for our parents or grandparents, which they did for us once, these opportunities can be considered as blessings.

Hope you're well recovered by now.

tiffany said...

YL- I was just 有所感触。What were you stupid about?

tiffany said...

Jos- I'm sure you will understand very well.. Ahh.. we always say we want to turn back the clock, but I think in reality, we don't really want to. Just as there are happy moments in the past, there are also happy moments in the present. Like your kite flying day? :P

tiffany said...

Julia- grandmothers are rather special for us, isn't it?

tiffany said...

Hello, heippieh. Thanks for visiting my blog. I've often seen your name on bb's blog.

tiffany said...

hello marissa, you must have been closed to your grandma as well. I think you've been rather busy with your other blogs? :-)

tiffany said...

Mrs A- it was really a strange sensation and feeling when I was showering my grandmother becasue I really remembered all the times when she bathed me.

You are right, there are a 1,001 memories in our hearts. Things that we had unconsciously tucked away. They add colour to one's life.

You must have shared some beautiful times with your mother and friend.

tiffany said...

JC- don't cry. Think of the happy times instead.