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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

My Grandfather

“I must say there is nothing wrong with your appetite, you’re a good grubber,” my grandfather gives me the thumbs up from across the table while I’m shovelling rice into my mouth.

This is a kind of complement of sorts. A bit like when Bahraini women greet you, holding your face in their hands, while they tell you enthusiastically that you’ve gotten so fat. I can feel the Covid-10 piling on already and it’s only two months into this interminable lockdown.

Our routine is well weathered now. My grandfather practices social distancing by barking orders from the couch in between naps, I write or paint, my grandmother reads, my father creates unfinished projects, my mother restores old pieces of furniture and irons a lot of napkins, and we all watch TV and eat, a lot.

Our days revolve around food; lavish dinner parties’ courtesy of my father who produces an extravagant meal each evening from his Ballymaloe recipe repertoire. Conversations around the table are often spent shouting some variation of a repeated story after my grandfather cuts across with random questions like, “Excuse me now. Do I have a fly on my head?”

My mother spends most evenings after dinner translating movies as my grandmother is deaf but refuses to get hearing aids, and my grandfather, who can’t hear half the time even with his hearing aids, falls asleep midway through so needs a synopsis by the time he wakes up.

When my mother is not busy juggling the washing, ironing, cleaning, and translating, she is monitoring my grandfather’s medication. She had begun to notice that a small white pill was continually being left in my grandfather’s blister pack. When questioned, my grandmother told my mother that it was for water retention and he no longer needed it. Of course, after verifying with the pharmacy, it turned out that the white pill he had been throwing away for three months was thyroxine; a key medication for stabilising his thyroid. My grandmother had in the interim decided that because they were water retention pills, it would be a good idea for her to take them intermittently instead.

Our obsession with the weather endures. Each morning we comment that it ‘seems to be brightening up’ when we spot the yellowy haze of sunlight in the horizon, only for the mountains to be covered completely by cloud two minutes later. Our microclimate often dictates the activities for the day. My grandfather has been told unequivocally by his doctor to walk every day but the current lockdown situation in tandem with the precarious weather conditions offers many excuses as to why this shouldn’t happen. So, there is usually an ongoing battle.

“You need to walk.”
“I have no problem going for a walk.”
“Why are you refusing to go for a walk then?”
“Ah, I just like to argue about it a bit before we go.”

He suddenly became particularly interested in walking after we told him our neighbour’s brother had been in the same year as him at school. I suppose, a bit like the rest of us, he was bored of being stuck indoors and was raring to have a chat with anyone outside of our immediate four walls. However, the restrictions meant that he was warned by my mother not to try and find the house. Instructions he duly ignored.

He disappeared one morning on his ‘walk’, which made us suspicious as he hadn’t told us where he was off to. Upon his return, we heard him ‘whispering’ to my grandmother, a feat made impossible by both of their ailing hearing, that he had received quite a fright. After finding what he thought was the man’s house, he had knocked on the door, only for it to be promptly shut in his face after he was told to ‘go away, they were cocooning’. It transpired he had actually knocked on the wrong door, but we thought it best not to tell him. Unfazed, he decided to try again a few days later after spotting our elderly neighbour heading into his house. He arrived back delighted to tell us he had met the right person but not to worry that they had been a whole ‘two feet away from each other’ the entire time. Trying to explain that it was two metres seemed futile at this point.

‘And I didn’t even go in for the whiskey’, he laughed, wine forming in the corners of his mouth like a child who had just devoured a bar of chocolate.


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