Story by Melany Z./ Image by Myra Bianda.

Stepping through the doors of the Bumi Sangkuriang Hotel, I felt as though I had traversed time and wound up in the past. The restless streets that pulled my attention in so many directions whittled down to a dusty road where I found myself feeling strangely anachronistic yet simultaneously, at home.

I had come to see my grandmother, her body recently frail but her spirit was as witty and engaging as ever. She had called me days earlier requesting a visit I was happy to grant. For our visits, I always stayed at a hotel close to her house so as not to burden her with the strain of having a houseguest. It was at this very hotel that she had met my grandfather. She was working at the front desk; he was a young man on a business trip. She would often joke that as she checked him in, he checked her out.

I stayed here because in one sense it was where my story began. Plus, no matter how much I protested, when I stayed at my Grandmother’s house, she still cooked my meals and coddled me as if I were still a child. The only way to ensure that she would relax when I came to visit was for me to stay nearby. And this was the only place she approved of.

Unlocking my hotel I set my bags on the bed. It’s a family tradition that upon college graduation a travel-related gift is given. These colorful bags thoughtfully chosen by my grandmother, were given to me with a simple note that read, “May your travels be as colorful and quirky as these bags are.” Once again it seemed that Gran knew me better than I knew myself. Her beautiful gifts have accompanied me on several incredible adventures. Over time they have become my good luck charms, perpetually bringing to mind comforting thoughts of home, even when I am far away.

As reality seeped back into my thoughts and I quickly set out for afternoon tea with Gran. Her nurse answered the door ushering me to the bedside of the now fragile lady I so loved. “Gran, I brought you the muffins you like and the jam you hate.” I said, hoping to impart a smile. “Well, you got it wrong AGAIN.” She shot back. “You were supposed to bring the muffins I hate and the jam I like. But you brought me you, so I guess I’ll forgive you…This time!”

I was so glad I came for a visit for as she patted my hand while we chatted over tea, I felt I was granted inexplicable serenity. Here she was, at the end of a life well lived, and was as seemingly happy and vibrant as ever. Her laughter carried perspective.

Afternoon faded into dusk, and I felt that she surely must be tired, even though she assured me she wasn’t. “I’ll see you tomorrow Gran” I said with a hug and a kiss on her cheek. She always ended our visits the same way, and this time it was no different. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Whatever you do, don’t look back.” Often I imagined this was because she didn’t want me to look over my shoulder and catch her crying after we said our goodbyes. Rather than ponder her meaning, I assured her I wouldn’t.

Back in my hotel room, I had a restless night. Unable to sleep I wandered the hotel grounds hoping to grow weary enough to return to sleep. I sat at the edge of the pool and dipped my toes in for an impromptu dip. Lost in my thoughts I didn’t notice the lady who had greeted me as I checked-in was at my side asking me if something was wrong. “No, just chronic insomnia,” I replied. “Oh, would you like some muffins or jam, to go with your thoughts.” I laughed at the familiarity of her offer. She had a friendly way about her, and soon we were chatting like old friends, discussing everything from boyfriends to politics, to the politics of boyfriends. Before I knew it the sun was peeking over the horizon. “Oh my, look at the time, my shift ended an hour ago, but I was having so much fun I completely lost track of time” she laughed.

As I ended our conversation with the conventional platitudes, she looked at me with a piercing gaze I’ll never forget and said, “I’d like to give you a piece of advice that has served me well. As you venture through life it’s important to look perpetually forward and not be weighed down by mistakes or perceived failures…I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t look back.” As I stood there rendered breathless by her revelation, my grandmother’s nurse appeared with tears streaming down her cheeks. She wrapped me in a tight embrace, and whispered in my ear, “I’m so sorry but your Grandmother passed away in her sleep an hour ago.”

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