This Christmas was especially special.
It wasn’t the food that was different – we ate what we usually eat for Christmas in Argentina – with the exception of the Rosti that I made, in addition to the other foods Juan’s mum cooked.
It wasn’t the gifts I received that make this year unique either. I received plenty of presents and am thankful for them, but they weren’t the highlight.
Christmas with Trini
What made Christmas so special was the fact that Juan’s granny, Trini, was present with us to usher in and toast to Christmas at home, instead of at the rehabilitation center in which she has been hospitalized for most of this year.
I first wrote about Trini a couple of months ago, about how she embraced me as part of her family from the very moment that Juan introduced us in my first trip to Argentina. In the post commemorating Trini’s love for those around her, I recalled the many times she sent a scribble-filled postcard to Singapore, expressing in lengthy, cursive words the huge generous love she had for me. Her determination to communicate with me was best demonstrated in her taking up English classes at the age of 80, where she was unabashedly the eldest and keenest in her class.
My Argentine grandmother..
Trini has always been one of the people I love the most in Argentina – she was the woman who taught me that “the measure of love is to love without measure” – and her love for those around her and myself has touched me no end.
Trini became very much my Argentine grandmother. I remember most vividly the afternoon teas in her small but cozy apartment, where she would pack her dining table full of freshly-baked cakes, biscuits and snacks for me to choose from, over which we would sip on simmering hot teas and watch random TV programs and chat about everything in life – from her days of youth in the 1950s, her family background, my life in Singapore, to the wise advice she lived her life by.
Then came the tragic fall in February 2012..
An extremely unexpected and unfortunate incident on February 1st this year led to a fall down a staircase, which resulted in some damage to Trini’s brain, rendering her unable to walk or speak properly. From being an extremely independent woman who lived by herself and often refused help from others, Trini, at 83 years old, suddenly became completely dependent on others to eat, shower, or go to the toilet. This year hasn’t been an easy year for Juan’s family, whose sadness and frustration with the effects of the fall has made it very hard for them to deal with how different things have become.
The hardest part is dealing with the fact that sometimes Trini isn’t lucid, and that her memories of us may have faded with the fall. She probably knows that we are not nurses or caretakers, and that she shares a special bond with the family, but names and how we are related are lost to her. More than anything, her physical absence at family events has also been particularly difficult, because she used to always make every effort to be available and present at as many family events as possible.
The last time she was at Juan’s house was the night before her fall, when she came to bid Juan and I farewell before we flew off for our holidays in Singapore. It was the last time we had a proper conversation – one in which we could speak freely and understand each other – and every time I think back on that dinner, I am so, so grateful that she was there with us.
Finally at home again!
This Christmas, Juan’s family decided we would bring her home for Christmas, and with special permission from the center’s management, we brought her home, to be in a familiar home environment once again, surrounded by family and loved ones.
Of joy and sadness..
The fact that we were able to celebrate Christmas with her, at home, was truly a blessing. Last night I was overcome with emotion to see her sitting at the table, in the position she has always sat at, and it was a mixture of both joy and a deep sadness.
Joy because we were all overwhelmed to see her in a non-hospital environment, and to see her contented and almost normal, just like she was before the incident.It was so beautiful and amazing to see her eating with plenty of appetite and without difficulty, participating in conversation, and for a little while, we could all pretend that things were fine, and that 2012 was just a bad nightmare. But then there was also great sadness, because despite her various moments of lucidity, there were various moments during which she once again had difficultly expressing herself and that brought us back to the harsh reality of life.
I am thankful.
However, I am thankful for her presence at our Christmas dinner, for her being alive and the fact that we were able to enjoy the time with her. God is good, and this was a Christmas I am really grateful for.
I hope all of you had a beautiful Christmas, a time well-spent with loved ones and friends, and soaking up the love that surrounds every one of us.
Greetings and love from Buenos Aires!