The Sensual Life
E.’s grandmother is in the hospice. The head of her bed faces a small wardrobe with family photos taped to the pressed wood, and a large window that gives her a view of the tops of a few birch trees, and an expanse of sky.
We arrive just after the nurses’ aids have delivered her evening meal: a smoothie, a cream soup of some sort, and one piece of bread cut into 4 small squares, each with a dollop of a different kind of jam. But she says she has no appetite.
Remembering now, I almost write, “she sighed”. But that would be wrong. She was having trouble breathing. Speaking a single sentence was as exhausting as it would be for me to run up a steep hill as fast as possible. Or more so. Her chest rises and falls, with difficulty. And more rapidly than one would expect. Like a small bird–yes, the cliché.
She recovers slowly. Then asks about the weather. A single, careful sentence that costs her.
E. tells her that his mother had remarked earlier that afternoon that the day reminded her of apple-picking. His grandmother smiles and nods. She stares at the blue sky through the window. “An autumn day,” she says.
She has pain in her legs. In her stomach. She has trouble straightening her head on the pillow and needs to ask E. to help. To touch her on each side of her thin face and gently move it, just enough, to release a neck muscle that was gripping out of habit.
I stare at the mystery soup in the Styrofoam cup. I try to smell it, inconspicuously. But the other scents in the room are overwhelming: the mushroom smell of cleaning cloths, and spongy smell of green soap.
E. settles her head on the pillow. She closes her eyes. A few moments later she asks again, “So, it’s nice outside?”
Again, at a cost.
E. says yes.
I become aware of my feet in my too-tight dress-shoes; my hand in E.’s hand; I think about how I had commented earlier on our run, about the “bite” in the air. It had been a mindless complaint between strides.
I see now, through the window in her room, the jewel-blue sky and the cotton-ball clouds. It’s beautiful. And I want to be out there again, out in the biting wind that carries Jæren’s round/sharp smell of livestock.