Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday of the Dissonances

It's past midnight, I've just gotten back from the most wonderful performance by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Australian group The Song Company, and I consider it still the 20th, since I'd intended to put this up yesterday and not managed to. Artistic liberties and such, you know?

Today is the second anniversary of my grandmother's passing.

It's also my birthday.

It was a long ride home in the taxi the night of the 19th. Bumpy, half-lulling darkness, punctuated by rain. My father had told me to come straight home after work; the doctors didn't hold out much hope for her any more. She could go any minute, they said. So I went, on sheer blind faith that she would wait, that somehow, she'd hear me praying again and again, God please don't let her die before I come home, I have to see her, I have to tell her I love her one more time.

A week ago in the hospital I'd stood by her bed and looked into her tired, dull eyes. I told her that I was going back to the city because I had to work. And I told her that I would come home.

Three hours later, taxi paid off, wet from the drizzle outside, I stood by her bed again and I told her, "Grandma, I'm home now. It's ok. You can go if you want to. I'm back. I promised and I'm here." She was already in a coma then. Had been, for several days. My aunts from the US were all home; I was the last one to arrive.

I wanted to believe that she heard me, that she knew for the very last time that I'd kept my word and she could go easy.

That morning of the 20th, 2.15am, she slipped away. No fuss, no drama. Her tired, cancer-ridden body just quietly shut itself down, and let her fall asleep for good.

She gave me the most precious gift - that of knowing she loved me, she heard me, and she waited. With all my heart, I believe she hung on because she was waiting for me.

Two birthdays later, I'm just home from the most wonderful Song Company concert, having been enveloped in music for an entire evening. Just home from having been 'happy birthday'd' by the girls of my choir and my choir director outside the Philharmonic Hall - complete with dissonant harmonies and theatrical showgirl finale, no less. Just home from one of the most special evenings I've had in a long time. I managed to almost trip going downstairs, but caught myself in a twirl on the bannisters; the Song Company tenor who was going down at the time almost caught me. Almost! Part of me wishes I'd let myself fall, so he would have!

And of course, I couldn't leave without having sketched some of the proceedings. That Moleskine is a treasure; there's something about it which makes me want to take it everywhere and record everything of interest, like a life journal in pictures. Alia, thank you -ever- so much for giving it to me. It's like a new dimension, added to my marker exercises.

Last birthday I was singing with the choir, and sick as a dog the entire way.

This year, I got to sit down and -see- a fantastic symphony and a choir. I got serenaded three times by various friends - church, online, and choir - and have had a weekend (I work Saturdays. Any full weekend is a treat.) Not only that I get to go home to visit my parents for an entire -week-!

In three years of birthdays now I'm back in Malaysia? This is definitely the best of them all.

And to everyone who's innundated me with birthday wishes? Thank you. SO. MUCH. You've made this day wonderful.


Unknown said...

THese drawings are wonderful, love the bold brush lines!

Marcos Mateu said...

I am convinced your grandma waited for you and heard your words. I mean it.

I am also glad two years later you had such a wonderful time, a full weekemd to yourself and the certainty of a whole week with your family.

(And the story with the tenor sounds interesting, and appropiate for Mrs. Trouble...hum...)

constance wong said...

Love your sketches, these and those in your previous post!

And a Happy Belated Birthday to you shuku! Hope it's still not too late :) Your birthday sounded really wonderful and unique! Not many people get to have MPO's choir singing for them on their b'days you know! :D

I agree with marcos on your grandma :)