In Your Hands - Nick Mulvey
With the pale light in your hands, I see you walk across the green. Your eyes still shine bright blue, though now you seem all shrunk inside your hospital gown. You walk wearily, carefully, as if any of your steps might break you.
‘Hi Grandpa,’ I say, and wrap you in my arms. I can tell you haven’t been hugged in a while, because you grip me very tight, as if you’re lost out at sea and I’m the raft that can take you home.
We step apart, Mum watching you. She’s wary, angry with you. For what you did, for the dad you weren’t.
‘We brought biscuits,’ I say.
‘Oh, that’s good.’ you say weakly.
You used to love biscuits. You were the only person I knew who broke his toast and scones into little pieces before slathering them in jam and cream. You drowned your meals in wine and enjoyed every mouthful of whiskey. But now your insides hurt and most days eating is a chore. I knew that by the pointed edges of your collarbone.
‘It’s beautiful here!’ I say.
And it is. You nod as if you hadn't noticed. You’d never have accepted to live anywhere that didn’t look like a palace.
We get cups of tea and scones and sandwiches from a tea shop with pink walls. We talk of going up to Holkham, of taking you back to a wide stretch of sea.
You light a cigarette. Smoke folding sweetly in your lungs. Mum tries to stop you.
‘Deny me every one of life’s pleasures, why don’t you?’ you grumble.
Mum’s jaw clenches. No one can mess with my Mum, except you. No one else would be allowed to, by my dad, by me or by Grandma. Except you.
Your hands tremble. Parkinson’s.
When we drive home, Mum’s hands shake, too. She stops the car and starts to cry.
Sometimes, when you walk back into her life, she remembers the first time you walked out. She chokes up and thinks the world is her enemy all over again.
‘Every day’s another, Mum.’ I whisper.
She starts the car back up, and drives home, where Dad and I tell her stories to make her giggle, so she'll know and remember what loving can be.