The Past

Never had I seen someone look so lost in their own home before as Granny did right then. Walking in, I had found her staring blankly at the news on TV in the dark living room. I flicked on the lights and after a few moments she turned to me. Her face remained blank then broke into a sad kind of smile.

‘Hello, Genie,’ she said in a soft cracking voice.

Instinctively, I looked around the room then behind me, but saw no one else with us. Her eyes lingered on me and slowly I approached her. The room was cold and the curtains were open, which meant the evening darkness was peering inside. She was in her favourite armchair, a scrap of knitting abandoned on her lap and still in her night dress.

‘Granny? Are you okay? What happened?’ I asked.

‘Oh, Genie, where have you been?’ she gushed and tried to stand up.

I caught her shaking frame and holding her under the arms, helped her to stand. She was a lot smaller than me and her body was bent over badly, making it seem like she was a hunchback. She smelt like a mixture of old things, the last breath of a cigarette, damp tea in the bottom of a mug and unflushed stale liquid in a toilet. Her watery eyes fixed on mine and her lips quivered to say more.

‘It’s Summer, Granny,’ I spoke loudly, ‘I’m your son Benny’s daughter.’

‘I don’t have a son.’

I laughed and tried to ease her back down, ‘Of course you do. You’ve got three of them and two daughters. Frank, Benny, Paul, Ronda and Cindy.’

‘What are you talking about, Genie? And for another matter where are we?’

I let her go and took a step back. Her knitting had fallen to the floor at her feet. I picked it up and tried to hand it to her, but she was casting her eyes around the room as if she had never seen it before.

‘You’re home, Granny. Who’s Genie?’ I asked gently.

‘What do you mean? How can you not know yourself,’ she replied angrily.

She snatched the knitting needles and ball of wool off me before throwing herself into the arm chair. She stared at them, then returned to me.

‘What is this?’

‘Knitting, Gran,’ I replied, ‘you like knitting. You made me this scarf,’ I indicated the dark green thing wrapped around my neck, ‘why don’t I get the fire going? It’s cold in here.’

‘If you must, Genie, but does it have to be here? I really don’t like this place.’

Ignoring her, I turned to the electric fire and tried to get it going. I held the switch down and listened to the clicking. Nothing seemed to be happening and no blue or orange light appeared at the bottom. I let go of the switch, counted to ten and tried again.

‘What are you doing, Genie?’ she called out, ‘that’s not how to do it. You need a match and some coal. Go to the cellar and get some.’

‘It’s an electric fire and you don’t have a cellar,’ I explained.

‘No, cellar!’ she cried and clutched at the knitting, ‘where are we?’

‘Home. Your home. Why wouldn’t this thing work?’

I slammed down the switch and abruptly there was a spark and a flash blue flames shot into life. Heat waved out of the metal bars and the flames turned orange and became calmer. Smiling, I patted the mantle and my eyes meet the cluster of framed photographs and trinkets. I picked up the first photo and handed it to her.

‘Look, here’s all your children, their partners and they kids. Ah, there’s me,’ I pointed at my twelve year old self, wearing almost the same school uniform as I was now.

‘I don’t know these people,’ she answered in disgusted.

Taking the photo from her, I sank to the floor at her feet and held out it out to her again. Gradually, I named and connected everyone, but still she refused to acknowledge the faces. Placing the frame back, I shut the curtains and then walked through the rest of the house. The hallway and kitchen were empty, so were the two bedrooms and the bathroom upstairs. Coming back down, I heard the clicking of knitting needles. I walked into the kitchen and made two cups of tea.

I had been wondering all the time about what was going on. These lapses Granny was having seemed to be coming more regularly.  My dad had told me not to worry, grandpa had been the same when he had reached her age. Old people liked remembering their past and sometimes they could get so caught in it that they thought they were there again. Still though, maybe it was time that Granny got more care.

Walking back to the living room with the teas, I was nervous that she wouldn’t recognise me and I’d be mistaken for Genie again- whoever that was. I pushed open the door with my foot and stepped in. The ending music of the news and the clatter of the knitting needles filled the now warm and brightly lit room.

‘Oh, Summer,’ she started, ‘I didn’t hear you come in. What’s that dear? Tea? Thank you.’

I placed her mug down and sat at her feet again, ‘how are you feeling?’

‘Better, dear,’ she sipped her tea.

‘Granny, who is Genie?

‘Genie? I don’t know, sweetie, but isn’t that a nice name?’