Mondays, long distance calls, and birthday wishes

On an unusually busy day, I get a text from my sister in the UK, asking if I’m free. I wasn’t. Usually, texts of the sort either freak me out or the looming unknown makes me give in sooner than most would expect. So I replied saying, "Working, but what’s up?" She wanted to know if I had the time to video call Nani (grandma) together and wish her.

I had completely forgotten. While I have recently grown to significantly realize the value of keeping one close on the day of, I am really not the best with remembering birthdays. I am usually scrambling last minute on phone reminders, Instagram ques and drafting belated messages! My youngest sister thankfully realizes this beyond any irritated judgement.

It’s 3.50pm in Toronto as I connect to the WhatsApp call with my sister and Nani... It’s almost surreal how long it’s been since I’ve seen her. She’s pretty frail and it seemed like we were practically repeating everything to benefit her weak hearing. She appears to be incredibly happy, though. It’s funny as we see her try her best to give us her complete attention despite the loud family hustle in the background. It’s a quick, sweet call with a few exclamations and some flying kisses (my Nani’s signature). She then asks when I plan to visit Karachi - I have no answer, so I change the topic and she doesn’t push further.

In my short call with my grandmother today, as I was just going to say bye and drop off: my Nani clarified to me that she had received all my calls in the prior weeks. She explained that she could not answer my calls because she was having trouble with the 'swipe to answer' option as her hands, sometimes, struggle to keep the mobile phone steady. She just wanted to address that. I’m like, "Oh no, Nani, it’s totally okay!" (I knew the reason already because my mom had told me much earlier and we limited our calls to Nani to save her the frustrating tech struggle.) In that moment, it meant absolutely everything to me that my Nani found it supremely important to let me know this still in the most uttermost detail. She went on to explain that she had been longing to tell me that she felt helpless all those times I called her, and she couldn’t answer. She admitted to wanting to hear my voice and reiterated that she misses having me around on all occasions, especially when it involves dessert. In the same breath, as an afterthought really, she also said that she realizes I’m just way too far and alone. I almost teared up and hung up soon after.

I am unforgivingly sensitive about the manner in which I prioritize people and hope to be prioritized. The whole thing for me ranges from nuances in communication, promptness, verbal and physical expression, presence, and thoughtfulness. As I figure now, I’ve only ever observed this as a living ideal in my grandmother. Even at age 81, my Nani keeps her children and grandchildren dear in her words, thoughts, and prayers. Her memory is unmatched: she not only remembers details about our life experiences but indulges in questions to understand any story better. My grandmother articulates feelings just as they are and with genuinity that I struggle to uphold most times. I am not sure if it’s old age, her personality or just one of those lost things. All this to admit that I won’t forget how deeply loved she made me feel on what was her day. Happy birthday, Nani!

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Zohra Panjwani

I love children's books, sugar jars, & understanding everyday moments & emotions. Strategy consultant who is passionate about women's worthiness.