Feel at Home: A Memoir

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I have always associated the concept of home with people I loved. Although it does not rule out the possibility that I too, have an emotional connection with the place where these people I loved lives. Both the people and the place leaves certain memories that sparks my emotion whenever I think about it. For as long as I can remember, my grandparents’ house has always been a second home to me. One of the reason is because the distance between my town and their town is close. Travelling to Depok from Bogor only takes less than two hours, especially now that we have a freeway. Their house is located in an area where everyone knows each other and loved to help their neighbors no matter the circumstance. That is one of the reason why I always loved their home, it gives me a warm and nice feelings whenever I visit, because you always feel welcomed by the neighbors. I don’t experience it that often lately, especially since everyone nowadays is caught up in their own world. Throughout the year things have changed, perhaps even drastically, but the memories that I’ve made in their house remains.

My grandparents previously lived in Jakarta since 1970s and moved out to Depok in early 2000s. Their old house at that time was unfortunately located in the middle of a building construction due to the rapid growth of Jakarta. According to my aunt, it created an uncomfortable situation that forced them to move out. And they did, so they can live in a better environment. When it happened, I was only around two years old so I don’t exactly remember the details. What I do know is the fact that my family often visit my grandparents every weekend or two. This pattern continues until I started school. I always spent my weekend or holiday there if we didn’t have any plan to go out—which was what happened almost every holiday, and to be honest I don’t mind. I remember during the time when I was in kindergarten my family didn’t have any motorized vehicle so we have to take the bus whenever we visit my grandparents. For some reason, the memories of taking the bus have a special part in my heart, as it reminds me of the simpler time. It is also a part that connected my love for my grandparents and their house.

I always have a great time whenever I’m at their home, because two of my cousins are around the same age as me so I get to hang out and play with them. We can spend the entire day playing around the house, from hide and seek, riding scooter, playing cooking, to acting out random scenarios with crazy and ridiculous props around us. There was also a time where we were obsessed with Play Station and played the game for a long time until we got scolded by grandma. Not to mention the abundance of food that my grandma made always makes me feel at home. As both of them are quite religious, I enjoy the time where they would come back from a communal Quran reading and brought us—the grandchildren box of meal. We loved it because it means we got to have free snacks. Or when my grandpa got back from the mosque after he prayed and I got to give him salam. Those little things made so happy growing up. I feel so comfortable spending my time with them; I often feel like I don’t want to go back home when my parents picked me up after my holiday is over. It is something that I dreaded when school is around the corner. As a kid, I just want to play with my cousin and stay with my grandparents so I don’t have to study at school. And I know that the feelings are mutual, I’m sure my grandparents loved it when I stayed at their house for a long time, although they’d prefer I stay in school.

As the time goes by, the frequency of my stay drastically change. I used to spend at least a week or two every holiday at their house, but lately I don’t even stay over. I can’t even pinpoint why I started seeing less of my grandparents, I guess my family got busy that we don’t have enough time to spend at my grandparents’ house. The visit decreased from once every few weeks, into once every national holidays which don’t happened that often. But at least the atmosphere is still the same whenever we visited. I still get to smell and taste my grandma’s dishes, listen to the faint sound of keroncong or campur sari that my grandpa always played on his old radio in the background, see my grandpa intently filled out his crosswords, and sometimes even witnessed my grandparents fight over small things. At least it was like that for a while.

Sometimes you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. And to put it mildly, that’s exactly what happened to me. With the mixture of me leaving for higher school education and the decrease of our visit, I barely get the chance to talk to my grandparents. For a while, I’ve had this longing feeling to meet my grandparents but I wasn’t able to see them. Until one day, earlier this April my mom informed me that they’d visited our house. Of course I was excited as it has been a while since I last saw them. But, alas! Because one thing and another they had to cancel the trip and promised to visit us next week. That visit never happened. The following Monday my mom texted me a heartbreaking news. My grandpa was paralyzed and had to be hospitalized. When I met him he was able to recognize his surrounding but wasn’t able to give a respond. It was so sad to see him in that condition. During the time when he was hospitalized, I stayed the night at their home. Things felt a little different in the house, the anxiety and terrible feelings replaced what once was warm and nice. At this point I honestly don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

I never expected it came that soon, but it did. I was sleeping in an odd position (because I was tired) when my aunt woke me and my cousin. up I can clearly see the panic in her expression and voice. It instantly made me feel anxious because I know something was going on. As I hurriedly rushed downstairs my aunt received a voice note from my mom. He was gone. I was truly shocked, never have I ever thought it would come that soon. After we picked him up from the hospital, the neighbors began to gather and helped our family. It was a heartwarming experience that I’ve only witnessed once. Everyone tried their best to console our family and helped us arranging other things. That early morning, I realized things are changing and I tried my best to compose myself (though I’m pretty sure I failed). It was the saddest day of my life and I can’t stop crying until he got buried. I realized I’ll never be able to feel the ticklish feeling of stubble whenever he kissed my cheek or seeing him seriously working on his crosswords or listen to his slow humming to campur sari ever again. My selfish thought was hoping he’d still be around by the time I graduate, so he can see that his second granddaughter have grown up. But I guess we can’t have everything that we want, don’t we?

After his funeral we went back to the house and reminisced the good old memories with him and of him. It warms my heart when we were able to gather together after a while, because we were so busy with our own lives. Going back there after he was gone felt different. I can still sense the remains of my childhood memories in that house, but it felt weird that something is missing, leaving an empty space in what once was filled with joy. Though it’s almost been eight months, sometimes it still hard for me to cope with it. The house, although now feels different, still holds a special place for it is a reminder of the good years I got to spent with my grandpa and it will always make me feel at home.

Photo by: Sabilla Opi A.

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