Saturday, 29 October 2016

Tiny stories 6: Photographs of Mona

Nana doesn't recognise me any more. She's been like this for months now. She's looking at me with bland politeness, wondering who I am. 

It fascinates me a little bit. How can that happen? Is it like one day when you're really old you just can't be bothered to hold that web of knowledge and experience and love together in your head any more? Whoosh, you let it all go, and you're left happy and empty like Nana is now?

But mainly it slashes at my soul. Nana was all I had.

We sit quietly.

She's smiling now. I'm trying to, but it's hard. Ellen's mum helped me look round the nursing homes to choose the right one for Nana. I cried through every night of that week. This one was the best, but I had no idea that people had to live in places like this. 

We've spent hours this way. Nana doesn't talk. Sometimes I do, but she just looks at me with that polite smile. My chat dries up sooner and sooner.

One of the nurses comes in with a little plastic medicine cup. Nana swallows down the red syrup obediently.

As the nurse leaves, her heel catches on a tin box under Nana's chair. She doesn't notice, but Nana leans forward awkwardly and tries to take hold of the box. I grab the papers that come sliding out. 

They're photographs, grainy and yellowed. They're of a girl in a crazy 60s swimsuit and cap, smoking and laughing, sitting on what looks like one of the old chairs from our kitchen. She seems familiar - the hair curling at her neck, the line of her jaw.....

Nana looks straight, clear at me. My breath catches.

That's Mona, she says. You're very like her.

The light in her eyes dulls and her focus softens back to the bland smile.

I tuck the photographs into my bag and Nana's final gift into my heart.

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