Empathy, sympathy, sorrow
It’s the smell you remember and you picture her face; wrinkled like the laundry as it comes out of her old spin dryer. But something changed. She changed. She started to forget; the setting on the washing machine, not to put the red blanket in with the whites.
Your grandfather laughed as he put on his baby-pink shirt which now matched his light-rose socks. “Men should wear pink more often,” he’d said to her when she’d looked worried and her face smoothed but then he’d looked at you and you both knew what that meant.
Then it got worse; she’d get the shopping wrong, cook meals that didn’t go together, buy ingredients she’d never use – you’d had to take back all those bananas to the man on the market stall and apologise that she really didn’t need so many.
She started imagining things; pets long dead, people from school or neighbours she’d lost contact with. It was the bat circling the sky above your home that morning that had signalled the change for you; its foreboding, the sound of its wings beating against the late autumn breeze, yet she’d smiled and sung to it, the song she’d sung to you all those years ago.
As she’d opened the front door, you wondered if it was too soon, you’d made a mistake, that she was fine, but then you’d followed her into the kitchen and watched as she’d gone to put the kettle on the hob, and you’d grabbed it before the plastic had had a chance to melt. That’s what you were doing; melting, your empathy turning to sympathy turning to sorrow.
Then your grandfather appeared and put his hand on your shoulder, smiling briefly, and nodding as if taking the responsibility for the decision you’d made together. He’d helped her put on her favourite coat, given her her handbag, and picked up her small beige suitcase as she followed you back out the front door.
Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.
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