I've always hated hospitals. They're where people come to die.
So here I sit holding onto Grams' fragile hand. Her skin feels soft, but paper thin. I think to the future, when one day it will be my young plump hand that will be transformed into an aging, fraile stick of bones covered by the thin sheeting of flesh. I wonder if anyone will be holding my hand when my time comes?
I look around the plain room, beige walls, one single picture of sunflowers hanging so the person in the bed has a view. Poor Grams, I think to myself. This room is so dreary, no wonder it's easy to die here. At least she is in her room alone and won't have to share her death with a stranger.
"Can I get you anything Grams?" I ask of the old lady whom I have adored my whole life. Her hair has thinned, along with the rest of her. Her gray strands surround her face like a fine feather down. Face wrinkled from her 86 years of life. Her eyes are still bright and knowing though. I am again grateful she never lost her mind. Sure people may have said she was crazy, but I know she just wanted to lead them to believe that.
"No thank you, my dearest child. You took care of what I asked you?" Her voice is raspy and weak. I know her time is coming soon.
"Oh Grams, you know I would do anything you asked of me. Of course I took care of it. He should be here soon." I answer her. Grams and I have always been close. I am the only person in the family she trusts.
"You're a good girl sweety." She smiles at me, her green eyes twinkling. I have Grams' eyes, and have been told by everyone that I am indeed, her spitting image. I can't see how that can be. I've seen pictures of her when she was young. She was a stunner. Besides, my eyes don't twinkle like that. It always surprised me she was never married. Always amazed me that she managed to have a child out of wed lock in her date and time.
She managed to eek a living, and feed her only son, my father, by selling things she made. She educated him and managed to save enough money for him to go to college. When he was 18 he left her, alone in her little log cabin in the woods. It's no wonder the rumors about her were created. Grams is the evil old witch who eats children, according to town lore.
My father broke her heart when he left. He never visted except one time to show her me. I used to sneak out of the house at night beginning when I was 5, to go see her. No one ever knew. She told me they would keep me away.
Grams taught me to make all the little things she did. How to cast spells, and to chanel the dead. Yes Grams is a witch, but she does not eat children. She told me it is a special gift, passed only to the women in the family. I always kept our secret and never told anyone about what we did.
"So your father will come see me on my death bed then?" She asked me.
"Yes, Grams. He should be here anytime now."
"I hope he hurries. I can feel my time growing thin. What's keeping him?"
"I don't know Grams. Maybe he had to work late."
"That bitch of a wife of his is probably trying to stop him. She's like that, as you know. Controlling bitch!"
"Grams, don't get yourself all worked up. Besides, that bitch you're talking about is my mother. I know you don't like her. I don't even like her. I wish it were her lying here on this bed, not you! I don't want you to go, Grams."
"I know my dear. Just remember that Grams is never going to leave you." Her eyes twinkle at me again.
I smile back at her, and try to make it as happy looking as I can.
"I don't deserve your love, Sophia." Grams says to me.
"Stop that crazy talk, Grams. I love you and that's that!"
I notice the sun setting through the blind covered window and wonder where the hell my father is? Grams has nodded off again, and I can't help but wonder if she will wake up this time. Her breathing has grown very shallow and she looks very pale. I wish he'd hurry.
I get up from the hard chair I have been sitting in and start to go through the closet and drawers, gathering her things. I figure I might as well start collecting her personal items. I don't think she's going to make it through the night.
In the drawer beside her her bed I find a packaet of stationary and furrow my eyebrows. I don't recall seeing it before. Perhaps one of the nurses brought it in to her. There is one nurse here that has taken to Grams. She is from another country, Sweden I think, but can't quite remember her name. I look through the delicately designed papers and find a note written in Grams' hand. I know I shouldn't intrude, but my curiosity gets the better of me. The letter isn't addressed to anyone in particular, so I read:
I want to thank everyone in my life for keeping me going. I am grateful for all the time I got to spend with you, getting to know you and watch you grow. I am thankful for the gifts you have given me each year and the gift you will bestow upon me in death. I have only one regret.......
"Hmmm," I say outloud thinking perhaps this is a draft of a letter to someone as it seems incomplete, no heading and no closing. I shrug my shoulders and set the stationary back in the drawer and notice Grams looking at me with a sad look on her face.
"I'm sorry Grams. I didn't mean to be so nosy, I know this is your personal business."
Just then the door to the room opens and in walks my father.
"Hello Sophia, Mother." He says as he sets a vase of beautiful red roses on a table near the wall under the sunflower painting. Those are so much prettier to look at. I smile and greet my father with a hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Gregory! You made it!" Grams says with such excitment in her voice.
Father strides across the room, leans his tall frame over Grams and kisses her forehead. "How are you, Mother?" He inquires, emphasising "Mother" and with a strange smile on his face. Perhaps he is just trying to be strong. Perhaps this is really bothering him more then he is letting on. I'lll have to talk to him later.
"My you have grown into a handsome man, let me look at you," she says, a big grin on her face.
I unzip my jacket as I start to feel a bit warm. I've had the heat on al day since Grams seems to stay cold all the time . The heat in the room is stiffling. Father looks over to me, a worried look crosses his face. "Are you alright Soph?? You don't look well."
"It's just hot in here. I guess it's hitting me now that I am up and about."
"Sit down sweety, I'll get you some water." He walks out the door.
Grams reaches the control on her bed and moves it to a sitting position. I can tell it is taking a lot of out of her to accomplish.
I start to get up, "Let me help you Grams."
"No, no hun. You just sit tight. Your father's right, you don't look too hot."
"Oh trust me, I am hot." I try joking. I can feel the beads of sweat falling from my hairline down the side of my face. My father walks back in with a cup of iced water in his hand and offers it to me.
"Thanks, Dad." I gulp at the water, the coolness winding it's way down my throat. It feels good. I hand the cup back to him and lean my head back on the chair. I feel very weird, like I am in that stage of sleeping when you aren't quite there and not quite awake. I swear I see my father bring some candles out of his briefcase and light them. How peculiar this dream is. I giggle a little. I hear voices chanting around me and feel something wet being put on my forehead. I can't seem to hear what is being said and don't know what is on my head, but it feels cool. I can't move. I hate dreams like this. Then I start to fall into a deep sleep, met by darkness.
I don't know how long I slept, but feel very groggy and weak upon opening my eyes. Everything is blurry for a minute then my eyes finally focus somewhat. I still can't quite manage to focus. I am staring at the picture of the sunflowers, and the vase of bright, blood red roses under it. I am confused. Am I sick??? After all, hospitals are where people come to die. They must have moved my chair.
Then I hear my voice asking me, "Grams, grams, are you okay?"
I shake my head and try to speak, but my mouth won't work. I can barely breath. I turn my head and see me staring back at me. God, I've got to wake up!! This is freaky!! My father walks up behind the me I am looking at and leans down and kisses my neck, only it is not my neck any longer is it? This just keeps getting creepier and creepier. And ewww on my dad hitting on me.
I feel a warm hand on what is now my own and look into eyes that are mine, but not mine. My eyes don't twinkle like that. I realize this is no dream. "My only regret, love," I have visions of the letter written on the pretty stationary, "is that it had to be you. I am sorry for this, but you see, I had to find a way to be with your father again. Gregory and I have been in love since we were young and we found a way to be with each other forever. A soul for a soul and you are my sacrifice."
Panic engulfs my mind as it gets harder and harder to breathe. The door opens again and in walks the Swedish nurse. "Is it done?" She asks in her heavy accent.
Gregory steps forward and stares into my eyes, "It is done." He is smiling as I feel my last breath slip away from me, then all is dark again.