Jasmin is a Psychology teacher who is rediscovering her love of good stories. Her inspiration for the following piece comes from a recent family photo.
She’s right in the centre, beaming in her electric wheelchair which she drives with just as much skill as she used to her car. She prides herself particularly on her reversing skills so when she needs to manoeuvre out of the lounge ‘to the little girls’ room’ and she unexpectedly crashes into the armchair behind her, then the door, then the handrail in the corridor, no one feels bad about laughing with her. This is a party after all and we all take every opportunity to show what a good time they’re having.
While she is gone, my Dad, tired from the thirteen-hour drive from Germany the day before, stretches his legs and picks up the bottle of Prosecco from the beautifully decorated coffee table.
“Anyone for another drop?”
“Go on then.”
I smile and chuckle convincingly as he pours literally one drop into my glass. “Ha ha, very funny, Dad.” Predictable as ever. Restless, he picks up his camera and plays with the settings. I take a sip of my drink and focus on the tickling of the bubbles at the back of my throat.
A sense of relief comes over us as my Grandmother finally returns, the quiet hum of her electric wheelchair approaching somehow soothing.
“Not been having too much fun without me, have you?” Enthusiastic laughter.
“Let’s take a photo.” my Dad suggests. “We don’t often get all the family together like this!”
We arrange ourselves around her, taking care to set up the scene well. My Dad darts out to enlist the help of one of the nursing staff. Usually more than happy behind the camera, this is one picture he feels he should be in.
You know how people say you can tell a fake smile from an authentic one? You can’t. This photo is surely evidence of that. Every single one of us smiling with our eyes as much as with our mouths. We’ve practiced. The hints towards the real reason for the gathering, the party, the photo, well concealed. The lumpy bulge of the damp handkerchief barely noticeable in my father’s trouser pocket, the heavier make-up on my face working well to reduce the redness of my nose and cheeks. All trying our best to give my Grandmother the happiest last memories. A matter of days, the doctor had said. A matter of days.
This is based on something I experienced last year. My Grandmother emailed us all with the news that the doctor had given her just a few days left to live. My parents came rushing over from where they live in Germany and we decided to have a sort of farewell party, except we didn’t want to call it that so we used my parents’ upcoming wedding anniversary as an excuse for a get-together. The whole day was odd, one big lie really! No one was really admitting why we were all there although we all knew and I found taking the photo particularly strange.
Quite miraculously, my Grandmother is still with us (the doctor was wrong…) but it is nevertheless a very emotional memory for me.