Since the stormy night I slept alone as a child in the dark, save for the dim glow from the light of the crescent moon through the chink in the curtains in the creepy bedroom attic, listening to the comforting tick-tock of the family clock in the downstairs hall, old age has always fascinated me. Sleeping under an eiderdown cover on the spare cot beneath the low ceiling encased tent-like with plastic so nothing could fall on me, was a bit like camping. I remember not wanting to climb up the back stairs to the dingy attic, afraid of finding frightening ghouls from the deep forest lurking among the rafters. Grandmother would nudge me up every step and often read bedtime stories until I fell asleep.
Grandmother’s name was Grace, and everyone called her Gran. After Pop (grandfather) died, Gran continued to live across the lane from us in her quaint house with its lattice wall of wild, tea roses along its wooden walkway. I would visit her and often stay overnight to keep her company.
Gran was such a good cook. She only cooked small bites, but they tasted amazing. Sometimes it would be dandelion with salt-beef and potatoes. I loved the little patch of lettuce she grew in the back garden from which she would fetch a head for dinner. When Pop was alive he had chickens running around in a chicken coop where Gran got her fresh eggs. The pantry shelves were stocked with all sorts of food including macaroni, spaghetti and dried goods. I remember playing there, opening boxes and measuring out the noodles. In the kitchen, I set up a store on the counter where I checked in items on the cash register constructed out of multi-coloured candy wafers and small containers.
Gran always used home remedies. I loved watching her melt wax in a pan on the kitchen stove for her arthritis. She would let the wax cool a bit and then immerse her hands completely. The soothing, healing, heated oils of the melted wax relieved the pain in her finger joints and wrists, restoring their flexibility. She would sit in her rocking-chair in the front parlour by the window, her shawl across her thin shoulders, her bright red and blue blanket over her knees, gazing at the ocean. Her lips would move in silent prayer as her arthritic fingers, stained cadmium yellow from the oils of the healing wax, stroked the rosary beads.
The rosary beads were her life-line to hold onto as though to let go were to be left out at sea by the ship, overboard, a solitary soul, adrift in the waves, with the horizon in the misty distance, as the sailing living souls move on.