“I’m just going to have five minutes.”
Grandma’s five minutes used to be ten minutes. Then they stretched to twenty-five minutes. Now, they could be anything up to fifty minutes. Especially, on days like today when she’d sunk a couple of barley wines with her lunch. She drank barley wine because it sounded more polite than beer, more refined. She usually limited herself to just the one but, “It’s not every day you’re eighty-eight, love, is it?”
I guessed not.
I flicked the remote to see if I could find something a bit more entertaining than Take the High Road. Grandma loved it. Grandma loved all things Scottish, or as she would put it ‘Scotch’. No amount of telling would convince her that Scotch only applied to whisky. “Dreadful stuff. Can’t a-bear it.” Grandma had got drunk once on Scotch. Exceedingly drunk. But we never spoke about that. At least, not in her hearing.
One eye opened. “I’m watching that.” At least, that’s what I think she said. It’s never easy to tell when she’s clutching her teeth in her hand. She’d had all of her teeth taken out when she was about thirty-five. She was a bit hazy on the exact date but “Your mother was only tiny,” so I guessed at thirty-five. Apparently, folk just did that back then, had all of their teeth taken out. Maybe that’s where my crippling fear of dentists came from, the thought that you could rock up with a full set of gnashers and leave, looking like a prize-winning gurner. Grandma did a good gurn. Sometimes involuntarily, like now, fast asleep again, head propped on the wing of the armchair.
The credits rolled on Take the High Road and I got up to make a cup of tea. It was Crown Court next and Grandma never missed it. The ominous theme tune would wake her from the deepest dream. I stood at the back kitchen window and looked out at the rose bed. That had been Grandad’s pride, joy and life work. Grandma loved roses and Grandad had loved Grandma. The kettle screamed on the hob. “Can’t a-bear those electric kettles. I like to know my water’s properly boiled.” We never bothered arguing with her on that one.
Over the insistent whistle, I heard another scream.
“Where are me teeth?” At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what she said.
Just beyond the rose bushes, I could see Sandy, the little puppy who had rescued Grandma after Grandad died. He was now a fully grown lump of boisterous love who could do no wrong in Grandma’s eyes. He really had taken Grandad’s place.
Sandy threw something pink and white up in the air.
Grandma stood in the kitchen doorway, gurning.
“How much do you love Sandy, Grandma?”
R. J. Kinnarney lives with her family of orange animals and her own purple hair – note: the animals are tamer than the hair. Words lie out there in all sorts of places. Links to online and print published works can be found at rjkinnarney.com Twitter: @rjkinnarney