The Way I See You

Nan bent over yet another flower and looked at it wistfully. Her fragile form reminded me of autumn. Her age, somehow, made her look even more beautiful than she had ever been. She turned as she heard my footsteps with a faint smile on her lips, fighting the wrinkles away.

 

“When did you get back?” she asked, amused.

 

“Just now. I was watching you hover around the garden,” I grinned.

 

“Did your mum send you here? ” she asked, her face shining with hope.

 

“Yes,” I said, but my eyes must have given me away, for she turned morbid.

 

“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked in a distracted tone.

 

I answered in affirmative.

 

***

 

She took a seat beside me and handed me my cup. Producing a dusty album from one of her bedside drawers, she started turning through the pages. One by one, my mum’s childhood unfolded in front of my eyes.

 

She was everywhere — in Nan’s arms, walking her first steps, riding a bicycle, up on a tree — looking much happier than I had ever known her to be.

 

“Your mum had never been dependent on me. I had always thought she would be, for I was the only person she had after your grandfather died. She never needed me. When she married your dad, I was dubious if it would work. Your mum had always been so complete, she never needed another person.

“When your father left, she took you like a challenge. She loved you, yes. But she wanted to prove herself as a good mother. She has always been driven by this force – her ego.

 

“I never really understood why. Months ago when I decided to marry again, she shouted and shrieked like a toddler. She kept asking me, ‘why?’ and I couldn’t think of an answer that would please her.

 

“I am an old, dying woman. I have been lonely for so long, I have forgotten how it is to share one’s life with another person. Your mum always kept herself inside a shell, insisted that you stay inside one as well, and now that I am trying to step out of one such shell she would have fancied I lived in, like her, she is enraged.

 

“Maybe I have disappointed her. Maybe she thinks I am not as strong as her. Perhaps she is ashamed of me. I don’t know. But I don’t want to die alone. Weak and dependent, okay, but not alone.”

 

She finished, her eyes full of tears and wisdom. Taking a deep breath, she walked out of the room.

 

That day, I realized, bravery manifests itself in a million different ways.

 

 


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