GRANDMA HAD DIED earlier on. Although technically, she’d lain in a funeral parlour for several days. But seeing that black coffin slip below the dirt and trampled grass signified the end, the hole she was lowered into the full stop of her life.
Ninety three. Not a bad age. She always said she’d be happy to go, a few years before her senses began to pack up in invisible stages, leaving her tongue till last, until sitting next to her in her chair at the home became an exercise of existential reflection and internal monologues, her gnarled shrunken body visibly separating from mind, as day time TV babbled in the background watched by others in similar stages of living death.
Lying in bed, the lamp sparing me enough light to read, I hadn’t made it past the first two pages, reading and re-reading the same lines rendered senseless by Grandma and the sense of grief. Spine up I rested the hardback on the duvet, losing myself, looking outwards beyond the wardrobe, through the outer wall, past the garden and into the trees, a world of my imagining ticker-taped across. Her elegant handwriting on cards, her seldom smile when she told a joke, like those ones of a forgotten age when everyone listened and the punchline arrived right on time – minutes – not seconds into it. Barely five feet tall but a powerhouse of a personality.
She’d seen Martin Luther deliver speeches, protested against Vietnam, got divorced twice in a time when you had to move town to maintain your reputation. She believed in justice: that was her abiding legacy and yet for some reason she always maintained she was going to hell. She’d say it jocosely at the end of a sentence, laughing it off, as if worried her opinion was too strong or unfit for a lady. As if unable to let go of a secret.
I wanted to cry, but I’d left all my tears at the cemetery, a ball of damp tissues distributed between several bins. I was her favourite grand kid. Her only grand kid: the humour lost on me until I grew up. Childishly I wished Grandma would come back, to see her once more, to hear the voice now solely captured on video, in it’s full form, rich like vinyl, just once. And after that once more again.
The room began to shake gently. At first I thought it was just my perception, the emotional turmoil obscuring my judgement. I glanced at the glass of water on the side. Small ripples bumped, kissing against the side. Sitting up, I looked around me as if the answer might be on the walls, the ceiling or floor.
And it was. Sudden splintering drew my full attention to the floorboards at the end of the bed. With a jolt of excitement I instinctively reached over twisting the lamp, shining the light towards the source of the noise. Something was poking out having punched a hole, moving, gesturing…
Crawling slowly towards the edge of the bed on hands and knees, I squinted, thinking an animal had somehow burrowed up. But animals don’t wear rings. Edging closer, only five feet away, there was no mistaking it. When I should have been running out the door, my feet met the cool floor as I inched closer. Without thinking, as if destined to do it, I reached down, my right hand lowering to embrace Grandma’s, her leathery, bony fingers wrapping around tightly.
Within a second I was flying downwards in total darkness, travelling so quick my eyes pressed back, lids blown wide, my mouth flapping, as that hand pulled me deeper and deeper, never flinching, never losing hold, the ring digging into my fingers.
Without drama we stopped. I found myself slumped over, contorted in darkness, unable to see any light source, relinquished from her grip. I felt around me feeling air and dirt. Then she spoke, her voice close yet distant, richer than ever.
“I needed company. It’s so very lonely Charlie. What’d I tell you? You’re my favourite grand kid. Nobody’ll miss you for one night. Maybe a few days…weeks…”