Because I am a benevolent blogger (I love the way that swishes in my mouth), I take requests. I got one today. Write something short and sweet. Here goes.
I live with my Granny, and every now and then I have this overwhelming urge to capture her. To take a snapshot of her smell, the way the wafer thin skin on her hands crinkles under my touch, her silvery cloud of white hair. But nothing I write can do her justice. Yet I must try. She is 86 years old, and every day I look at her, and try and soak her in to my memory, for I don’t know if it will be the last. I want my children to know my granny in minutiae. To be able to blame their garish blinged out taste in clothes on a genetic hiccup inherited from my granny, because the only thing Mama loves more than a loud print is Pizza.
Mama sneers at vegetables and does not believe in salad. Or water. No, she is a hardened meat eater who has no need for woosy things like lettuce or hydration. If you try and lecture her on the importance of drinking 8 glasses of water a day, her self-induced Selective Hearing Syndrome kicks in. Any question she finds dull, she will simply tune out. Rightfully so. At that age, nobody should have to suffer through tiresome conversation.
Dementia has removed any filter of propriety, and she comes out with the most marvelously inappropriate things. Like soliloquies on breasts. How mine are great. How hers used to be great. How my sisters’ could be bigger (sorry sis). How I really should cover mine up a little more. Look at that. Her life is nearing an end, and yet breasts are not too frivolous of a topic to talk about. All those lofty philosophies we wear like medals, and yet when all you have left is time to think, it comes down to breasts. I love that.
Lest you think she is vacuous. She would love me using that word, lest. Be informed my Granny used to be an English teacher. She will tell you this, and if she catches a look of bemusement on your face, or you are not nodding vigorously enough for her satisfaction, she has been known to burst out into Shakespeare.
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.
Her English Composition in Primary School was number one in all of Kenya. It was entitled “An Accident Witnessed By Me” – She is very proud of that, as she should be. She was one of 5 daughters raised by a widowed mother in a time where girls were married off rather than go to school.
Sometimes her brain gets locked onto something. Every Sunday l climb into bed with her, under her scratchy brown blanket and put my feet between hers (which she hates). To open her eyes, she peels back her eyelid with her fingers. Peering at me, word for word she says the exact same thing every time:
‘Oh Aleya, your teeth have become so wonderful. What did you do? You used to have the most god-awful teeth before!’
It gives me such comfort, this predictability, especially when your world is crumbling underneath you. She sensed my marriage was falling apart. After her usual commentary on my teeth, she used to look at me and say
‘Beta, how are you?’
My eyes would fill with tears.
‘Well, he IS from another community… Bas. Leave it in God’s hands.’
It would infuriate me. I wanted her to tell me how to fix it. But she taught me something more timeless. You need to have the courage to submit.
In my mind, she is always sitting on her chair. Her feet encased in her fluffy slippers, swinging back and forth, not quite reaching the floor. Childlike. It all comes full circle. All this stuff we fret about. It means nothing. We are all headed in the same direction. She gives me hope. Growing old is a bastard, but if you must, do it on your terms dammit.