Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chained To Each Other With Love

I know now why she cannot leave. And now that I know my heart has become heavier. She told me she goes to bathe her aunt once a week. I shudder inwardly and feel ashamed that this is my reaction. I imagine her aunt's bloated, old and frail body. Her arthritis is really bad and it's not surprising that she has trouble bathing herself.

Pictures of a young smiling woman, surrounded by friends in happier days. "She was really beautiful" I said when I saw it. Mother nods her head while raising an eyebrow - that means "for sure" - as I leaf through the album.  After we had buried my grandmother we had gone to see the old lady. As we settled down in the living room I saw the sun shining on her through the window and choked. That was because she looked just like the departed, but still different. They came from the same womb but were not the same, and now one of them was gone forever. I look away and blink my tears. Somebody pours the strong black coffee.

Where could this old woman go to? So frail that a stare would hurt her brittle bones. No, she cannot be left alone. And then there is my grandfather. Old, recovered from a stroke, and friendless after a long, wonderfully selfish life. We are luckier in that we can afford a male nurse to help him. His manners have gotten worse with old age  but we still love him. How can we leave him? Will such wild dogs have mercy on one so old and weak? And there are stories like this across the country, of people bearing the impossible burden of duty; chained to each other with love.

And because of all this my heart is heavy because now I know that I can never leave either, even though I am not there.

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