I don’t remember the day, the date, the month, the weather or even the year. I guess it was circa 2000. My senior days at high school. I remember where, at my messy grandmother’s room during a long school vacation. Since I thought at first she was my mother, I called my grandmother ‘Ibu’. Well, it’s a long story and I don’t have enough time now. Anyhow, Ibu and I were talking about where I’m going to take my bachelor degree. She was a principal at an elementary school for years before she was appointed as the head of a regional education office in West Java, so education is numero uno for her. Top list of priorities. Suddenly, she asked, “Neng, how if Ibu marries again?” Believe me folks, I’m not surprised listening to this question.
I would like to share some things about my amazing grandmother. She had married for 5 times before she asked this question to me. Her first husband was a highly-positioned army officer. Having the new husband stationed in other province while she was busy teaching in public school, this couple eventually got separated. An entrepreneur proposed her, which was ill-considered enough to ask for my grandmother to just stay at home while he’s working. Ibu was already a principal at that time and left him at one morning after that man oblige her to be a mere housewife. This action was fully supported by my great grandfather who prefer having her daughter having a career than staying home all day doing nothing. I believe there’s one man after that failed marriage but damn I forget the detail. Was it a police? Or that guy from the Health Department? So many stories now I’m trying to sew them up. However, those marriages didn’t breed any sons or daughters, and my beautiful grandmother still looked young and single.
Then my grandfather came along. My charming handsome grandfather. Living and breathing together happily for many years, they raised my free-spirited mother and my extremist aunt. Only daughters. With their own troubles. And suddenly, a granddaughter to look after. After my grandfather died, I was the only one who filled her life, apart from her job as the head of the education office. The years passed us by. She still couldn’t forget my grandfather. Later, I had to move out from cities to cities. I think that’s one of the major reasons why she felt lonesome. She involved herself in many activities, travelled a lot, seminar this seminar that, meeting this meeting that. I followed her news from far far away.
She’s getting aged, with her white hairs, more like a real grandmother to me and my sisters by then. Apparently, those white hairs didn’t keep her admirers away! It was on a seminar on education when she met a very nice man, which then became my new grandfather. I’m okay with that, she’s lonely, and my step grandfather was such a great person, although he gave me several new names of aunts and uncles to remember. He served Ibu with total care. They both worked and ended their tenures at almost the same time. Lonely days lurked again in the darkness. I guessed it was a happy ending for both of them, until he passed away because of his lung cancer.
Years passed us by again. She lived by her own, I only visited her during school holidays. She also wrote a lot those days. That day she asked, I noticed some poems written on her room’s door. They are poems about loneliness. I smiled yet felt sad for her. My grandmother was a kind of person that can’t live alone… I was aware of that. She’d been so busy and surrounded by many people, until she got retired and my step grandfather died. The feeling that everyone left her, including me (who still regret that until today), made her so upset from days to days. My grandmother suddenly got a visitor, a man that was in fact smitten by her since she was still young and busy doing educational projects. Months after those visits, she asked me the question. And I said, thinking about those lonely poems, “of course, Ibu, if it makes you happy.” Then she tied the knot again, without my mother’s and aunt’s approval. Without everyone knew, she became a wife again.
My mother stopped talking to her for months notwithstanding, at some point I got a hunch that this marriage would be different. Ibu changed herself into a housewife and I’m still wondering whether it’s her own idea or she was forced by the situation. She said one day, “I’ve finished the days of me being a hectic woman, now I just want to take care of my husband. I know this is my first time, but I’ll try.” Then I got further proof of my hunch; she didn’t have another passing husband. Having her busy activities stopped, Ibu became sick. She was so close to the limit of her endurance. Then she left him. On the first day of the fasting month in 2005, she left the world. She left me. She left me. She left a granddaughter who always look up to her, to her educational visions, to her ways of thinking.
I have never said enough thank you for those. Now I will never had the chance. I miss you, Ibu.