“With grandfather’s death on my hands, I am fully responsible for my grandmother. This time I will make it right.” — Seven-years old me.
‘Why can`t you just act normal?’ screams the grandmother. Her big dark eyes are rolled out. It looks like they about to burst and everything in the room will be drowned in the black resin of rage. I can feel the heat of her anger on my skin.
She rushes to her room and shuts the door behind her. I lay on the floor and stare through the gap under the door. This way I can observe her everlasting ritual.
She takes the faceted shot glass and starts to count the Valerian drops dribbling in.
‘Thirty-eight, Thirty-nine, Forty…’
It`s a countdown to the horrific event that is about to happen.
She tops up the Valerian drops with water, puts her lips around the shot glass and bottoms it up.
The muddy liquid disappears inside my grandmother. She breathes out and put Validol under her tongue. The suffocating mix of the medication grabs me by the nostrils.
She lays her body on the bed and covers her face with her arm.
Now my task is to watch closely her chest and make sure that it is moving up and down. That means she is breathing.
Minutes are passing by. I hold my breath when her chest doesn`t move for longer than usual. I fear the beast I have summoned.
‘Anna!!!’ she shouts. The sound of her voice starts on the screaming height and fades to the whisper swamp.
‘That`s about it…’ she whispers, ‘Call the ambulance!’
She doesn`t have to say twice. I am well-trained. I call the ambulance and follow the pattern: Last name, Name, Age, Adress, Reason.
The paramedics break in like a rescue team that will set me free from this hostage kingdom. I show them the way to her room and hide in the corner.
She says she is allergic to most of the medication so the paramedics are left with not that many options. They sit by her bed, hold her hand and try to talk her out of this state.
I go to the living room to the most important corner of the house.
There all the orthodox religious icons are shining in their saint golden frames. I kneel in front of them, wipe tears from my chin, put palms in the religious gesture and start my negotiations.
‘Ekhhm,’ I clear my throat, ‘ Dear God, I am not sure if you exist but my grandmother believes in you. She is busy now feeling sick and dying.
On her behalf, I would like to ask you for help. Please don`t let my grandmother die today! If she will die my mom would be mad at me.
I know its all my fault. I misbehaved and upset her. And now she`s dying because of me. Please, please, please. I will be a good girl from now on.
Please let her live this time.’
By the time I finish my negotiations the paramedics close the entrance door behind them.
I sigh and slide by the wall on the floor.
This time the grandmother`s God was kind enough and kept her alive.
The next week I am again on my knees. I am ashamed even more than before. I whisper, ‘ Dear God, I remember we had a deal. And I am so sorry that I was a bad girl… Again. But this time I will behave.’
‘Where have you been the whole night?’ she screams from her room.
‘None of your business!’ I scream back and close the door behind.
‘Call the ambulance!!!’
I sigh and dial the number. Seven years passed, but the pattern is still the same: Last name, Name, Age, Adress, Reason.
I light up the cigarette and lay down on the floor. The entrance door of our flat is not locked, so paramedics can easily get in.
As usual in the evening after ambulance`s visit, my mom calls and accuses me of being cold-hearted.
‘This is your grandmother! You suppose to be nice to her!’
‘Oh, God! I just hate people with erratic behavior. If you promise to die, please do so!’
My mom hangs up on me.
I am thirty-one. I visit my so-called home country for the first time in many years.
‘The grandmother feels really weak,’ says my mom, ‘ You should visit her and say goodbye.’
‘You know, mom, its been twenty years of her dying. I already said my goodbyes before. Many, many times.’
Her face looks like yeast dough in the plastic bag. Greyish and swollen. Million of wrinkles invaded her hands and her body shrank. Dirty white sheets hide her inside of their rumpled layers.
I cry and sit next to her bed.
‘Forgive me’ she whispers.
I feel uncomfortable under the stares of the nurse and her caregiver. I want to scream “Never!!!” but instead I say calmly, ‘I forgive you. Goodbye.’
She died a couple of days after I returned to my new country of residence. That made it impossible for me to attend the funeral. And I regretted it deeply. Sadness? Guilt? Remorse? None of those things.
I just wanted to see her laying in the coffin, observe her frozen pale face with shuttered eyes. I relived this moment a million times in my head. I felt I deserve to experience that in real life.
This moment when the imagination and reality finally meet.
This article is part of the series “Deadly funny” scattered across the publications. I explore the relationship with death when human beings first get introduced to it. It can be funny. Deadly funny.
Do you remember the first time you met Death?
Check out other stories of the series “Deadly funny”.