As the 12 hours train trip comes to end, we arrived at my mom’s hometown – a small town in the middle of Eastern Java, known as Madiun.
If you ask my family the purpose of this trip, my mom would delightfully inform you that we are here to visit my grandparent. More specifically, my grandpa.
He’s left alone after one of my aunt gave birth to my new cousin all the way in France, and my grandma just has to go visit them on that other continent.
So that’s that – and my grandpa just got left alone in the old house, with his many dogs.
Arriving at the town, I know for sure we don’t have that much plan of what to do. We didn’t plan to visit any particular place other than our grandparents’ house, and so there’s where we end up going.
As you might have known, older people don’t really have that much energy nor patience. And the same goes for my grandpa. He’s always had that bad temper and discipline of that of an artist – let’s just call him not the type to work hard, and only work at things he wanted to do.
So I suppose you can imagine how the decade-old house would look like.
With at least five dogs living there and countless pests and so little interest of cleaning up, the house is literally not too far from being called similar to a junkyard.
The empty beds are covered with rat’s poo, with dust piling in every inch, some of the main lamps are not working, the overwhelming presence of the smell of dirty dogs and their dungs, not to mention the pile of old books, papers, cartons, sticks, dry leaves,
everything untouched for years.
Well. Every time I visit the house, the condition never changes. It stays that way – more like the house’s trademark. At times it would be better, because my grandma’s still cleaning the functional parts of the house diligently, but most of the other times.. especially when she’s not around.. well. You can imagine.
Just as we arrived, the very first thing that happened is my mom, ordering everyone she could order (that’s me and my dad) to start picking up the old papers, find all the broom we can use, sweep the floor. Dang, mom, out of all your hobbies, it just have to be cleaning that comes out.
My mom wiped the racks and closets, dusted off the beds, and continued to order me and my dad with unending list of chores. The smell was unbearable. The disgust was real. I kept laughing and whining at the same time, since it is basically unbelievable that people lived in a place like that.
The weather was not friendly either. The rain doesn’t pour, the sun shines like it doesn’t care. The temperature is crazy hot and with the humidity we have in this country,
praise the lord for the sweaty weather.. it doesn’t take long for me to be covered in sweat, sweeping here and there, sneezing a bunch of time, packing old papers, and shouting to the older people because they just don’t get what we’re doing and they (as most older people do) are half deaf.
I just can’t seem to understand why my mom persists on cleaning this impossible junkyard. What’s in it for you, mom? And why drag us all from the comfort of the capital to this stinky hot old house? I mean, even if we clean them up today, is there guarantee that in a month the same huge pile of trash won’t re-appear, judging from my grandpa’s personality? Geez.
Me and my dad had to make excuses to take mom away from the house to our hotel to have shower, or to trip around the town to eat so we won’t be stuck in the stinky house.
Try and imagine this : For the three days we visited, every time she comes into that house, cleaning is what she does. And we just have to tag along if we don’t want to sit around doing nothing and end up getting sniffed/peed/poo-ed on by stinky dogs. We’ll end up being dirty and smelly either ways. So we kept.on.cleaning.
But as we kept on cleaning, my head kept on turning to make sense of the situation and answer ‘why?’
Why does my mom get so determined to clean up the crazy house? Why won’t she stop cleaning when it’s obvious she’ll get exhausted like crazy? Why does she kept on cleaning even though we all know the situation won’t stay clean for long?
And how come my dad didn’t even stop her from doing so, and tagged along like it’s something usual?
After a long, deep thought, in the middle of the smelly cleaning sessions, I finally figured it out.
My parents had always taught me about how important it is to respect your elders, to love them and take care of them no matter how flawed they are – because they have done so much to keep you alive all those years.
They might be the craziest people alive and you just hate parts of their self – but they have done much more than you can ever imagine, and for that, you should be thankful.
I finally figured, that after all, this is my parents’ way to say thank you. To do what mom does best to make her parents happy, even though they are already so old and flawed.
She dragged me all the way so I can see it with my own eyes – this is what a child can do to show how much they love and respect their parents. Especially right now, because she’s already an adult with kids of her own, she knows and understands more. She had to be thankful and repay all the un-paid-able debts in her own way.
She kept on telling me, “Your grandma would have a hard time trying to clean all these by herself. She’d get hurt, and she’s not even that strong to forbid your grandpa’s habit of trash piling. This would help her a lot.”
“Even when she’s far away, she kept on worrying over the house being dirty. So we’re here to help ease the worry.”
The message was clear. The bond between your parents and you does not get broken. You will always be linked to them, and they to you. If you have received love, give it back. And if you have love, show it. Your sweat, eventually, shows your love more than your words.
I can’t say I’m not grateful for the message. It was beautiful. Smelly, but beautiful.
Oh my. But still. Please don’t put me into the same experience all over again. I just can’t take it. I’m not as awesome as my mom. I’d faint already.
How about you? Have you ever found lessons of life and love this way?
You say I’m crazy – but I know I’m not the only one… 😉