I chose a freestyle memory. I wrote constantly for ten minutes then the timer went off and I added another ten minutes. The timer went off again just as I finished a sentence so I decided to stop there. After I finished writing, I read what I had written, fixing a couple of typos and adding a couple of prepositions but this piece of writing is largely unedited. It’s written in short, abrupt sentences. Its repetitive. But I’m not going to change it, because I think it’s value is in how raw it is. Also, the memory is painful, reading the words is painful and changing the words so that the memory sounds ‘better’ seems wrong somehow. This is my contribution to the Weekly Writing Challenge:
I remember the day that my grandma died. It started out as a normal day. I got up, I got ready, and I left the house. So did my mum, so did my siblings and my dad. I went to the local dog pound where I volunteered. I walked a couple of the dogs, played with them, changed their food and water and then I was on my way. I walked to the bus stop, got on and was home quickly. I smelled. I was sweaty, it was hot and I had spent a good amount of time with dogs that didn’t get the weekly dog wash. I grabbed a change of clothes, a purple summery dress and headed for the shower. When I closed the door to the bathroom, I heard my mum on the phone. She sounded distressed. I was afraid. Her tone, I had never heard it or I couldn’t remember ever hearing it. My mum closed the door to her bedroom. Not knowing what else to do, I went into the shower. I washed the sweat off and the hot water calmed my nerves a little.
Then my mum knocked on the door. I called out, ‘Yeah?’ She said something about having to go to Blacktown and picking up my siblings. Blacktown is where I was born, it’s where many of my relatives live and it’s an hour and a half drive from where my family lived on the central coast of Australia.
I knew immediately that something was wrong. I got out of the shower, dried myself and got dressed. I remember Mum telling me something about my grandma being taken to the hospital. She didn’t go into detail; it was just this has happened and we are doing this and you have to do this. I could tell she was worried. It was all over her face, obvious from the quiver in her voice. I never really got that expression until that day. But there was one in her voice. There was a quiver in her expression, a quiver in her body. Everything about her seemed slightly off-kilter. I was afraid. Not only of what might have happened to my grandma but of the effect it was having on my mum. I had never seen her so…. I don’t know. Not herself, not my mum, not the strong foundation upon which I was built.
I was removed from the situation. Or my mind was. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know how to deal with it. What I did know was that my purple dress appeared relentlessly cheerful and out of place and it seemed like an insult somehow to the seriousness of the situation. A black top and jeans replaced the dress. Black. Respectful. Not cheerful. I didn’t think about the mournful aspects of the colour until later.
Mum and I got in the car. We drove to the school around the corner where my siblings went. We waited for them to come out. I don’t remember what it was like in that little bit of time when it was just us in the car, trapped together, swirling emotions. I don’t think we really talked. My siblings came out, got in the car and we were on our way.
The drive was long. It was always long but it was never longer than that day. What were we racing? A mystery illness? The news that something else had happened? I was in the front seat with my mum. It was tense. An hour and a half of nervous energy and silence. In the backseat, it was less so. The kids were somewhat happy to be let out of school early. I don’t think they had a good idea of what had happened. Then again, I wouldn’t underestimate them. Children are always more observant than we would think. Perhaps their giddiness was masking their nervousness. Maybe it was an outlet for their emotions. Anyway, their rowdiness was in clear contrast to the front seat.
Eventually, we got to my grandparents house. The house that my mum and I lived in for the first couple of years of my life. The house that she had grown up in. The house that was endlessly familiar, more so than any other house that I have lived in. We got out of the car and headed for the front door. I think it opened before we knocked. My mum’s Aunty was at the door. She said something, she shook her head. My mum crumbled and fell into her Aunty’s arms. I entered the house in a daze. My cousins, my aunty, my uncle- they were all around the living room with tear stained cheeks, red noses, grief. I made it to the arm of the lounge before I started crying. I sat there for a long time.