Last Goodbye

The old woman lay in bed- the centre of her universe. Her gnarled fingers clutched at the blanket spread carefully over her, to hide the unsightly stains on the bedsheet and her hastily retaped diaper that she had earlier ripped apart in senile frenzy.

She knew she was leaving. Had known for some time now. She couldn’t say how many days had gone by since the realization had come swiftly to her as in a dream. Day and night and their transition had no meaning to her.

Once it had been different. Once, not so long ago, day had been when the children had gone in and out of her room, searching for their clothes, their books that they’d left somewhere, grandma, do you know? And she’d sat up in bed and smiled her toothless smile at them, shaking her head at their youthful carelessness.

At that time, night had meant a special silence- different from the day. Not the everlasting silence she was now locked into. A sweet silence that grew out of loved ones at rest. Her son, tired out after a long day’s work- Don’t worry Ma, she looks after me so well. Her daughter-in-law, frayed at the edges by temper born of helplessness. Poor woman lay exhausted at night, silently lying next to her silent husband. No, perhaps for them, thought the old lady, not such sweet silence.

But even before that, day and night had had their own qualities. Day had meant frenzied activity, as she raced around the house getting meals ready for her ever-ravenous family. Even her daughter had had the appetitie of a horse, eating as much as the men. How will your husband feed you, they had all joked. I will buy my own food, she had replied only half in jest, and employ a man- glaring at her brothers- to cook it for me.

Here an inner smile passes across the old lady’s consciousness. Half regret, half pride, at her daughter still single. An old lady now, but with regal bearing, a medical degree- and yes! A male cook who worshipped the ground she walked on.

Back when day was filled with the need to feed her family, night-ah night had brought blissful relief to her aching back and sore feet. She had felt each muscle relaxing as she stretched her tired body out next to ther husband’s. Thank god, she had thought then, that we no longer feel the need to prove we are physically suited. Neither of them had liked sex very much- it had just been a necessary bother one had to go through if one wanted children. Once they had had four that had been that.

After that point they had become like the best of friends- more like affectionate siblings really, who teased each other and gave each other space to grow.

I wonder if I will see him thought the old lady. My playmate must be waiting for me.

She had been waiting to go for so long, and now it was time. She had said her goodbyes, though they had not known it. When the children visited her less often, when her daughter-in-law had started ignoring her call, when her son had suddenly become to busy to sit with her, she had said her goodbyes in a thousand ways to each one, but they could not have known what that touch of the hand, that smile, that kiss, that sigh could have meant.

Thay had stopped loving her long ago, but she knew that was how it had to be. This way she could go in peace, Know that what was waiting for her was so much better.

I’m coming. Wait for me. Just wait.

2nd September 2005


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