We sat alone in her room, my mother and I, waiting for her. I looked around, searching the walls for a smudge of dirt, the curtains for a slight tear or stain, something to stop it from looking so plain, so sterile and un-used. No such luck. I felt so awkward, just sitting there, on the corner of her firm, crease free bed. There was silence. I don’t know what Mum was thinking, but I could tell from her expression it wasn’t about taking me home. She looked worried, but to be quite honest I didn’t see anything scary about visiting Granny, except maybe this room. I mean it wasn’t as if she was going to jump out and attack us or anything. She is 87!
I sighed. It had been such a long time since I’d last seen Granny, years in fact. I’d almost forgotten I had one. The memories were vague, but I could still remember some things about her. If there’s one thing for sure though, it’s that she couldn’t possibly like it living here. Where were the photos? The wallpaper? The pretty flowers we used to pick? It just doesn’t make sense, why mum and dad put her into this prison. I hate them for that. Just because she started forgetting a few names? It’s just cruel if you ask me.
Still waiting, a sharp knock at the door jerks me back into reality, and out of my dreamy thoughts. My mother, nudging me to get up, answers the door to a stern looking women in a sickly green coloured uniform. She glares at my mum, then at me. Lips tightly pursed together and eyes thin as slits. She was not the prettiest of people I’ve seen.
“Mrs Neil, correct?” spits the woman. Mum nods, giving me another unsure glance. “Why is she acting so strangely?” I thought to myself as the green woman stomped into the opposite room. I was about to find out.
“Look,” my mother started, “Grandma’s not how she used to be you know…” she sighed, seeming to search in her head for the right way to word it. Before she got a chance, the green woman returned, this time pushing a wheelchair.
Inside this chair sat an unfamiliar face. This couldn’t be her. With a pained smile the green woman walked out and we were left facing this stranger. She sat, slouched and saggy. She was so very small and old. I was drawn to her eyes. Her pale blue weary eyes, large and watery, glistening with tears. All her features were exaggerated with many dark, defined lines and wrinkles. Her lips were so dry and thin. The beautiful rose colour had somehow drained and her hair had grown fine and white, tangled like a thousand cobwebs.
I swallowed. There was that horrible lump in my throat which refused to disappear. Partly from pity, but also guilt. I could feel the sting of tears building. How could I not have noticed, not cared enough to notice? This poor frail body used to be so alive.
My mother had been softly talking to her whilst I’d been fixed on appearances. I hardly realised, as the sound Granny made was no more than a gentle, scratchy whisper. I felt awful inside and turned to Mum, forcing back tears. I watched. Their eyes, so similar, both looking desperately for hope, happiness. My mums smooth young hand moved off the bed and slowly, shaking, was placed on Gran’s. She held it so cautiously, as if it could be crushed, and crumble any second. I knew as soon as I saw her, things weren’t going to end quite as I’d imagined.