Although a worn, pink cotton robe hanging over the big armchair and a small plate with crumbs on the coffee table indicates at least an eaten meal, no other life seems to be there.
Then I hear a toilet flush behind me, followed by fumbling of the locked and the moody voice of an old woman, getting angry with a lock that doesn't properly function to her will.
There she is, with cane and a worn pyjama with worn slippers that used to be white, belonging to the home.
Her legs look fragile with the paperlike skin and the red aging stripes on her calves. Her feet are practically purple and she refuses to wear socks most of the time.
'Hello sweety!' she says elated when she discovers me. Her binoculars dangle from her neck on a colored string. Carefully she shuffles forward. With every step she takes I'm afraid she's gonna drop, that's how clumsy she does it, but to help is forbidden. Her grey hairs are neatly combed down, in equal parallel stripes.
Her sealring is twinkling from her ring finger on the cane she's holding on to. It's like it's winking at me.
'Hello darling!' I reply, equally elated, for her mood is contagious.
Our physical distance is only one step. I steadfastly take it. Standing belly to belly, she dares to hug me by letting go of her cane. She's shrunk even more, which makes her face practically on bosom-level. Her arms take a tight grip around me, as far as that's possible with both our conditions.
After a few deep breaths in necks and hairs, we let go.
'Sit' she orders me friendly, using the cane to point. It feels odd to be told by a woman with a cane to sit down. Shouldn't I be the one telling her to sit down?
I know the drill though. The sooner I sit down, the sooner she will follow my example.
I sit down on the couch, hoping she will wisely sit down on the comfortable armchair. There's less trouble for her getting up from that one. But no.
She decides to sit next to me on the couch. I know this means I have to help her to get up from the couch afterwards. She knows I can manage it on my own.
'It's so good to see you, my dear. Tell me, how are you?' Interested. As always.
'Nothing much special. Billy and me are going to have another ultrasound next week'. I know she loves to hear about it. She was as happy as a puppy with a stick when I told her I got pregnant only two months after being married.
'Can I have a bit, or is it only Baggsy that has that privilige these days?' her naughty spirit wakes up. Sparkling eyes.
I can't repress the indulgent smile I feel with those words. She laboriously but steadfastly slides herself over the surface of the couch. The surface is rubbing her thin skin, making it wrinkle on the other side of the now very tight and shining knee. She takes my hand, guides it to her knee, where I let it rest warmly. Her skin is softer than it ever was.
I slide towards her, to make the approach a bit easier for her. I drop my head on her shoulder, like a naughty child giving into bad behaviour, waiting to be forgiven.
She kisses my neck, I kiss her neck. Soft. Wrinkly. The scent of a time that has been.
'Oh, my sweet little girl'.
We gaze into each others eyes, kiss on the lips.
Her lips feel familiar. I am lost as I always was.
Some things don't change. She is, as always, my Josephine. ×