My grandfather was a strong, elegant and upright man who lived with dignity. He was orphaned when he was two years old and was raised by his maternal uncles. His initial tragedies inculcated a strong belief to believe in himself and do things on his own and not depend on others. This had been the hallmarks of his character.
From being alone to being married, having children and from thereon till the time he passed away, he had a family of 40!
When old age creeped in, he had a tough time depending on others. He had been very strong till the age of 91, but suddenly and without any forewarnings his health deteriorated. He had to be admitted to the ICU for 5 times in a span of two years. We were quite sure we had lost him on all of those five occasions.
As a family, our shortcoming was that we could not measure and manage his body vitals as a professional might have. We were on a learning curve too, finding out for the first time the effects of fluctuations in protein, potassium, sodium. The short span of time (hours) in which his vitals could swing from being normal to way below par. We were not aware and sure what food to feed him.
It was during these confusing days that the Elders Home opened in Sanepa. We, in the family, debated long and in depth IF we should put him in the Home.
Kathmandu is a closely knit society and extended families are very much prevalent – where it is the norm to take care of your ageing parents. So the social stigma of putting up an aged father, grandfather was a social taboo.
We reached a consensus on the lines that ultimately everyone have to pass along from this world, and having reached the age of 93, he had lived long and strong. However many days he may have left, we wanted him to live with dignity. Once that was clear amongst us, we decided to shift him there.
He lived in the Elders Home for two years. That is two more years for him to have met everyone who meant something in his life and say goodbyes. Two more years with his wife to reach a blissful married life of 80 years! Two more years to have seen 4 more great-grandchildren added to the family tree, wedding of his 2 granddaughters.
And those two years could not have been added without the care, attention, patience and love shown by everyone at Elders Home Sanepa. They would keep vigil of him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He received immediate medical attention if there ever was an emergency.
But more than all the medical attention the Home gave, I truly believe the love they showered on an old man whom everyone saw as their own grandfather prolonged two years of his life.
Two special years, in which he shared the most intimate and personal moments with me. I realised that every time I talked to him, he was sharing his life’s lessons. Things he knew were truly important in life, the most important lessons in his life that had filtered through all the confusions that we mortals are subject to.
My grandfather established an retail outlet that is an established brand, so he was keen that I should take the family torch ahead. Of all the lessons he parted to me, the one I will never forget and is what makes me proud of my grandfather is his firm belief that reputation is the most important asset that anyone can earn in a lifetime but is fleeting if not properly cultivated and honed.
He said “Look, today we are selling sweaters. Tomorrow, if you think it is right and there is a demand sell pants, jackets, coat, t-shirts, et al. But, please my son never sell your reputation.”
I am truly grateful to the Elders Home Sanepa for giving us those two golden years with one of the strongest man I know and love in my life – my grandfather.