The knock on the door must have fallen on deaf ears. Taking a deep breath, I push the handle down and step inside, prepared to be overwhelmed by the sweet smell of rotten flowers and stale air.
‘Hello Grandma.’ I bend down and wrap my arms around the old lady’s shoulders, resting my cheek against hers.
‘Hello.’ The old lady squints.
I ignore the puzzled look on her face and turn around to open a window. ‘How are you?’
‘Who brought these?’ She points at the bouquet in my hand. It’s still wrapped in paper.
‘The flowers?’ I force myself to laugh. ‘Me.’ Oh please, don’t do that to me. Please don’t. ‘Do you like them?’ Spinning around myself to locate a vase in the tiny space of her room, my clumsy fingers tear a hole into the wrapping.
‘They are beautiful.’ Grandma says absentmindedly. ‘You!’ She reaches for the hook that dangles above her bed and lifts herself up. ‘Dr Young! You remind me of someone.’
‘Grandma, are you ok?’ My shoulders sink. I am trying hard to hide the worry in my voice.
‘Dr Young, you really look like my granddaughter Deborah.’ She smiles. ‘She’s married and lives in England.’
A hoarse sound that bears vague resemblance to laughter escapes my throat. ‘But Grandma! I am your granddaughter Deborah!’
She looks at me from the corner of her eye. Suddenly, her face lightens up. ‘Goodness gracious!’ She smiles broadly. ‘I think I am going completely meshugge!’ Her delicate hair sways gently from side to side as she shakes her head. It looks like baby hair. ‘But the similarity really is astounding. Well, at least you have something amusing to write into your diary now.’
‘I sure will.’ I grin and move a chair closer to her bed. ‘How have you been, Grandma?’
‘I am ok.’ She looks around carefully. ‘However, I am afraid Arthur is becoming a little peculiar in his dotage.’
‘Arthur?’ My eyebrow shoots up. ‘What’s wrong with Arthur?’
She sighs. ‘I don’t know. He has changed. A lot.’
‘Why? What happened?’ I fidget in my chair.
‘He just doesn’t talk. Does not say hello or goodbye, no please and no thank you. Just stands in the middle of the room and stares at me.’
The hair on the back of my neck stands up. ‘And where is he now?’
She looks around again. ‘Gone. The cheek!’ She giggles. ‘He always does that. As soon as someone else enters the room, he sneaks out the back door. Good that he’s gone now.’
‘Why’s that good?’
‘Why?’ Her gaze falls on the light brown corduroy cushion next to her pillow. ‘This bed has become a little too small recently.’
Grandma and her husband Arthur have been married for more than 60 years. He died in August 2008 and is dearly missed.