Instalment VI – Wherein our Little Heroine faces a Formidable Heroine

Tales from the Tropics II


My Uncle told me if I’m idle in Australia, I may as well come home. It’s not a bad offer. The time’s coming. At ten days I thought it would never end, at five I’m scared that it is.

My grandmother (the formidable heroine of our piece) is daring the Lord to kill her. Same babe same. I asked if she had taken her heart medicine and she coquettishly said that medicine is for those that are afraid of dying. “If you are scared to die then you will take medicine to live. But only the Lord knows the timing of your life. I have fulfilled all my obligations. My children are grown up. Your mother and your uncle can’t die because their children need them.”

I didn’t know what to say either.  Is she saying I’m not a grown up? True basket. It is her valiant stare down with death that probably sustains her living. I don’t know who said it to me, well I do, but I don’t care to discuss. They were speaking about how every time they went back to see their family overseas they were always acutely aware that it would be the last time they would see their last living grandparent.

I can’t get this out of my head. I’ve never felt this strained negativity about the existence of my grandma. She said it to me in passing too, “maybe this will be the last time we see each other”. Promise you it’s not a guilt trip. She straight up tells me to come home more, in a regular aggressive way.

Her life feels full and complete and she is happiest when we are all here. Imagine an alternate reason to wait for death that is not because life is agony and raw nerves. Imagine. Not that she always had it easy, She nearly died in childbirth, survived a war and a philandering husband. I couldn’t ask her what her worst memory is, so I asked her what is her happiest, and she said this, making a home for my children, raising my children. Is it cause you didn’t have Facebook? I swear, whatever it is that she has, I want.


I’m not sure if she thinks my questions are endearing or she thinks I’m also too idle with my thoughts. I asked her if everyone in life has a purpose and she refused to understand. Don’t be crafty. I know you know. Do you think the purpose of the woman who comes to help tidy the house is to clean? She didn’t have kids. My grandmother ducked the interrogation and told me about the difficulties that her helper endures with her lazy husband and reminds me that life can deal you a much worse hand. All suffering is relative. Uh huh, and it pails to the crucifixion. Told you, I went deep religion.

I feel like a genetic anomaly amongst my cousins. I am the only one that seems tormented by the meaning of existence or concerned by it. My uncle looks anxious. But he occupies his mind with fixing all of our problems in life. See, he can’t die. What an obligation it is to continue to live. Don’t have kids. Got it!

SJ xx

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