Tag Archives: old age

In the Pink

in the pink

You hate the smell of the place. The sickly stench of cheap air freshener, rather than neutralising the compacted odour of aged bodies, urine-soaked furnishings, and stale cooking, highlights it. You loathe sight of the magnolia walls, the  poorly reproduced generic prints of countryside scenes, the institutional, mint-green, dralon seats. You pity your grandfather’s baggy frame, his wrinkled incapacity, his silent distance. When he doesn’t recognise your voice, it makes you want to cry.

You wonder why he smiles so freely, at the walls, and towards the fluttering, fading curtains.

You think his restless flitting eyes are nigh on blind, but he sees sights to which you are not privy.

He sits at a dinner table, relishing shepherd’s pie with home grown potatoes and carrots. The sun’s rays fall onto a dark green mantlepiece on which sit several crinolined ladies, fashioned in porcelain. Monochrome photos of two young heroes who have yet to die for Britain, shoulder their rifles, proud uncles eager to do their bit. A third photo shows  a shy couple, frowning as the camera clicks. The man wears baggy corduroys and a tweed cap. In his hand he holds a shepherds crook. The woman cradles a baby wrapped in a woollen shawl.

The three white plates are scraped clean, knives and forks placed neatly together, glasses emptied of water. His father sighs contentedly, leans back in his chair, and tamps down tobacco in the bowl of his pipe.

His mother sends him out to play, safe in the knowledge that this rural farm is far from the danger of bomb attacks. He skips down gritty lanes, grabbing at plumes of meadowsweet, stripping off the sweet, creamy blooms, flinging them in the air, watching them fall like confetti. Grinning to himself he thinks how much better life is for a child than a man. He wants to stay forever in this perfect time – never to grow up, never to have the responsibilities of a job and family. He wants his days to be a constant round of  romping in the fields, soaking in the summer sun, returning home when his stomach tells him it is dinner time, enjoying board games with his parents in the evening, or helping his tin soldiers to defeat Hitler’s armies, and bring everlasting peace.

His eyelids sink, and you think he’s asleep, but his head slants just so, and an expression of ecstasy floods his face.

He hears a recording of Vera Lynn’s voice, drifting through a cottage window.

“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,”

but you are too far in his future to hear the music. All you hear is the traffic roaring along the busy road outside. You reach for his wizened hand. His smile widens.

You can’t understand what reason he could possibly have to smile. Living in this place, you’d think he would want to die. You don’t realise that in his mind, he is in the pink, having the time of his life.

“Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free,”

The ghost of a squeeze makes your hand tingle. His old bones feel so tiny, so fragile.

His lips lips part. His voice is no more than a whisper:

“Mummy.”

A chill goes through you, and lodges in your heart.

“Grandad,” you say, your voice urgent, “Grandad Jimmy!”

He can’t hear you, your voice is too far away.

Vera Lynn has such a beautiful voice. He knows – has always known – that she sings her song just for him.

“The shepherd will tend his sheep.
The valley will bloom again.
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.”

With horror, you notice your hand is tightly gripping his, crushing his fingers together. You think you’re hurting him. You let go, and his hand flops. He sinks sideways, the beatific smile frozen on his face.

Outside, the light has a pink hue. A blue bird flies past, swooping and soaring, up, up high into the sky. You watch until it is out of sight.

blue-bird

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The Daily Post #Pink

©Jane Paterson Basil

ELLA TEQUILA

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Ella Tequila’s hair is a mess.
There’s coppery dye all down her dress.
Green eyes sit in ochre pools
As spilling her drink she sits and drools.
It’s easy to think that she’s lost her mind
Leaving all her marbles and her memories behind
As she sits and she mutters and she stares at her feet.
Thin body swallowed by the overstuffed seat

Now Ella’s eyes stroll about the room,
Sliding around in the pressing gloom.
Skimming mementoes and slipping away
Over pictures of how life was in the day
When men were toys to dangle along
And life was all drinking and laughter and song.
Now she sits and she mutters and she stares at her feet,
Her body too small for that massive seat

Now Ella Tequila looks my way
Glaring at me as if to say
As so many times she has before
”I wish you’d just walk out of that door.”
Then shaking her head as if to clear
A secret voice only she could hear
She sits and she whispers and she stares at her feet
A body engulfed in an overstuffed seat.

Ella Tequila seems to slip away
Into the night of a long gone day.
She sits and smiles as her brain sips champagne
And considers her newest sleazy campaign
Her lascivious eyes she can’t disguise
And those twisted lips that betray her lies.
While she sits and smiles and admires her feet
And her body blossoms forth to fit the seat.

Ella Tequila looks into my eyes
And she sees the fear that I can’t disguise.
Youthfully leaping from her chair
Angrily tossing her chemical hair
She grabs my wrist and shouts in my face
”You’re dead! You’ve left the human race
You’ve gone to hell. You are not here.
So you think to murder me with fear.

I never wanted a screaming brat
You gave me wind and you made me fat
I tried to kill you but you hung on tight
Your new-born body was a horrible sight
And it got worse as day by day
You grew up in that horrid way.
And here’s my final word to you:
I hate you and your daughter too.”

Ella Tequila loosened her hold
With a glance that made my blood run cold.
As I backed away she sat down in her chair
Re-arranged her dress and patted her hair.
It’s easy to think that she’s lost her mind
Leaving all her marbles and her memories behind
As she sits and she mutters and she stares at her feet
Thin body swallowed by the cosy seat.

”Goodbye Grandma, I’ll see you soon”
I said as I left that hated room.
And as I heard cruel laughter start
I thought again with anguished heart
It isn’t true that she’s lost her mind
Leaving all her marbles and her memories behind.
And she preens and admires her pretty feet.
While she’s artfully arranged in her comfy seat.

© Jane Paterson Basil