On her death bed

“I chose him, because life with him seemed like an adventure,” it came like a mere whisper out of her very dry mouth.

“Do you want some water, grandma?” I asked.

“He had me come all the way to Sumatra from little Denmark, and he was so good-looking!”

She sipped a little of the water.

“Feel better?” I said.

“The trip out there on the huge ship took forever, but I…” she closed her eyes and dosed off.

I loved my grandmother, not because of her strength but because of her adventurous spirit. She seemed to attack life, to savor it, no matter what. I wish I had been with her to Sumatra.

But all I knew of her time out there was through the objects in her house and through the stories she told.

They brought back a snake skin. And it lay rolled up on the mantelpiece, the snake’s eyes staring at you. Sometimes my grandfather would unroll it and show the length of it to my brother and I. And then he loved to talk about the skin without a head that was several meters long, the length of a tall tree, that was stored in the attic.  I didn’t like to go into the attic. I didn’t even like to think about it when I lay sleeping in the big bed next to my brother, not far from the attic.

I was already occupied with the long shadows that fell through the room through the window blinds, and I was listening to the loud drunk voices from the tavern across the way. Falling asleep, I always saw figures, one very tall and skinny, the other, short and fat. The tick tock of the grandfather clock never failed to put me to sleep. Now, I have the clock.

“I would have stayed with my other suitor in town,” a faint whisper said. I looked at my grandmother, and she was at it again. Picking up the thread of her life’s choice; to either go to her one suitor on Sumatra, or to stay with her other suitor in town, she was faced with the choice of her life.

“What would have happened if you had stayed?” I asked.

“Different children, and no you,” she smiled at me.

Right. That’s crazy, I thought.

“You’re my spitting image; I may not have had a spitting image of me,” she said wryly.

Even though I was her son’s daughter, she was right; I was more like her than my own mother’s daughter.

As I grew older, I resembled her more and more, not only via my looks, but also via my spirit and via my attitude. The earth is round and so are our lives. Round and round we go.

She’s been dead now for twenty years, and I’m fifty. I miss her and want to write her story.

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About elizabeth stokkebye

Grew up on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. Spent childhood and youth in Denmark. MA in Scandinavian Languages and Literature from the University of Washington. Taught Reading and Composition at UC Berkeley. Write under the influence of human emotions.
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