Enveloped in blue skies, memories of the cup of tea that started this journey flooded back.
The tea cups rattled as nervously traversing the kitchen. I’d been handling the same cups for years, but never seemed totally at ease.
I still don’t quite understand, why we don’t use mugs I thought to myself as I stumbled out in to the lounge.
The cups are over 60 years old. A gold trim, now a worn around the edges; white with a blue floral pattern on the outside. Using fine china, a practice of years gone by. A time before dishwashers and caffeine hits, when afternoon tea, was much more. Passing through the lounge my eyes moved from the trodden red carpet to her legs, rocking back and forth, now visible on the deck.
“I want to go back Ben.”
“Where?” I ask, handing Gran her tea.
Gran didn’t answer immediately. Instead, staring vaguely off into the distance, giving me time to appreciate her face and how the fading sunlight highlighted the lines in her aged face. Everything about her exuded peace, yet her lack of response hung heavily in my mind.
“Ben!” Gran gasped. “This is it isn’t it?”
“Yes Gran it is” I said, taking her hand in mine, helplessly trying to hold back my smile.
The lift swung around to the right as I lifted Gran from her seat.
I knew she’d lost weight but when taking her full weight; I was surprised just how light she was.
Five years ago, Gran got pretty sick. Her four month hospital visit, together with the medications and her profound dislike for hospital food resulted in drastic weight loss.
There were times I had thought, she wouldn’t make it through. But whether by medical aid or the fighting country spirit of her youth, she survived.
Survived, in that she was still breathing but not without scars.
I sat down on the great big cane chair beside Gran. The chairs always seemed comically large as a child but with my head now well above the backrest and my thighs touching the sides, I realise how times change. I am no longer a boy, and my Gran is much older than I appreciate.
Thanks to her condition, these silences were not uncommon during my weekly afternoon tea visits. Gran struggles to maintain concentration and rarely remembers what you actually say.
But something was different about today. Typically her stares are blank, but today there was something there. It could’ve easily been the sun reflecting off her hazel eyes, but as I studied every line on her face a small yet sure smile cracked her weathered face.
“I want to go back to the mountain” she said as her smile grew. “The ledge where I…”
She failed to finish the sentence instead, giving in to a sudden flow of tears. I knew exactly where she meant.
The chair squeaked as I sat down, the doctor’s gentle laugh a welcome, yet momentary relief.
Dr McConnor had been Gran’s doctor for over 35 years now. Apart from my late grandfather, it was him, who knew her best.
“I must ask” Dr McConnor spoke as he sat, “To what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?”
His relaxed, yet somewhat arrogant demeanour made me nervous and unsure of today’s meeting. He sat back in his reclined chair; I shuffled nervously on the edge on the consultation room’s vinyl chair. I couldn’t help but feel like a boy in a man’s world.
“I want to take Gran on a trip” I blurted out.
“Your Gran isn’t up to trips” he replied, without even asking where we were going.
I was mad, I wanted to storm out of the room. This man has grown from a textbook, what would he know of love?
Instead, I sighed. “I want to take Gran to the mountain.”
“No, definitely not” his raised arm stopped me mid sentence.
“But nothing Ben. I cannot allow this to happen.”
The phone rang again and again, I knew better than to hang up. On the twelfth ring, she answered.
“Gran, I’ve got some bad news” I said trying to explain who exactly was calling.
“I know, it’s ok” she quickly replied. “The doctor called me earlier and told me of your plans”
“My plans?” I questioned. Sometimes I feel like she is feigning her vagueness.
“I said, you’d be acting strangely, suggesting we go on trips. I said you must have been on drugs” appearing the most lucid I’d seen in months.
“Kids these days” I said as we both laughed, my mind flashed back to childhood.
Days on end spent at Gran’s. She’d run around playing games, with newspaper swords stuck down the back of our shirts, paint wherever we could and laugh until our sides hurt. She appeared crazy to some, but to me, simply awesome.
“Gran, are you ok?” I asked amongst more laughter.
“Great, never been better” she replied, I could tell she was smiling from the way she abruptly spoke her words. “So good in fact, that I rung the travel agent after I spoke with the doc”
We stood Side by side on that mountain, for what felt like years before speaking. But I knew all too well, what she was thinking.
“This is where we met” Gran said. “Your grandfather and I came here once a year, and do just this. Watch and listen”
I had no words that could match the power of the ones she shared.
“And Ben, I want to thank you for bringing me back to where it’ll end” she calmly mouthed the words taking hold of my hands.
“Gran?” was all I could manage.
“I want you to listen and watch as I speak” suddenly Gran was serious. “I have little to give Ben, and the world, little to give me”
Tears ran ice cold down my cheeks, as I watched the woman I loved so much fall down her beloved mountain.