- You wash the tomatoes with a brush – the wrinkled - greyed hair woman said to a chubby young man who was accompanying her.
- Toothbrush? – he asked, smiling at her.
- No! It can’t be a toothbrush if it is not one used just for fruits and vegetables.
- and peel some tomatoes disinfect some lettuce leaves together with some onion rings. You can also add some olives as they give an extra flavour to the salad – and she invited one to him.
- - Yeap, I already know that I have a round-pizza-like face, and I need and the olive us in my nose, can’t you see my round – clownish nose. It’s red also…
- Just that, mom?
- No, dear.Don’t forget to dress it or at least salt it, otherwise it’s going to be like eating plain grass.
- What if I mix some cheese?
- You said cheese? No way! Unless you wanna make pizza!- and she in
- Pizza? That’s a better idea for dinner, as I just have to buy and not to cook.
- But having a nice salad, meat, some rice or even bread is better than eating a slice of pizza.
It isn’t fattening!
- Oh, c’mon, granny I need to get a bit fat. I am underweight…
- Who? You? No kidding! Look at your tummy –
- That’s not a tummy. It’s my savings.
Both laughed, out loud,as if they didn’t have another chance to laugh again in their lives.
She started to peel some tomatoes.
He looked at her hand' skills.
Fast and precise.
- Where did you learn to be so skilled, grandma?
- Life teaches you.
- Is it a teacher? I hate teachers!
- Yeap. Life is a school – inviting him a green olive – but you don’t have to hate them. They teach you many things.
- But life teaches you, and vou said that!
- Yes I did, but you need teachers as well, as part of your growth.
- Grow more? No kidding!
- Look at my hands!
- They are shaking like a blender! – he laughed, but, she didn’t.
That was not a joke anymore.
She took his arm, and, in a vague familiar sense, she said to him:
- I remember now,. oh yes! That old days, when we never used to hurry like you guys do in these modern days, when family had meals together it doesn’t matter if it was a loaf of bread for each of us. But, laughing together. Crying together. Living – the grayish hair and wrinkled grandmother looked at her grandson a tall and strong boy at his middle twenties.
Both stated af each other, defining each other with an intimate sile ce that is only understandable in terms of family ties.
Smiling she finished slicing the tomatoes and to arrange the lettuce leaves in a bowl, hands shaking due to Parkinson’s disease.
- I help you to cut the meat – said the boy.
- Thanks, dear, because I think I am not feeling very well. My legs you know, my arthritis reappears from time to time, and my varicose veins hurts because I stand still in front of the stove for so long because I do not coordinate my movements, you know these shaking arms and legs.
- I will take you to your bed – and he took her by her thin and soft arms like a defenseless child.
- Thanks! You are kind but I think I have to finish cooking dinner your parents are arriving home from work very soon, and there is nothing ready for them to eat.
- Don’t worry about that, grandma.
- They are going to buy fatty chicken again, as it has been happening for the whole week, and you know that eating that food that is bought kills you inside in a short time. You better eat at home – but she almost could not finish to sag the last sentence, as she started to cough.
- Do you want a glass of water, grandma? – asked the boy, worried enough to stop the twenty steps walk to reach her bedroom.
So, without hesitation he took her in his arms, carrying her to her double size bed laying her gently and covering her with a brown blanket.
- For just five minutes. I have to finish cooking.
- It will make you no good if you force yourself to cook. Think that we are all grown ups and we should do it, not you.
- But your parents arrive home tired and hungry. We must have food for them.
- But they can arrange that.
Rest for five minutes – and he sat beside her, caressing her gray hair.
He turned on the television set in front of her bed.
- Turn it off , please.
- Ok – and he turned it off – I will bring some water for you.
- You don’t have to, because when I go back to the kitchen, I will take it
- What time is it? – she asked.
- Half past seven.
- Time up! It’s time to go back to the kitchen!
- Your five minutes haven’t passed. Not yet.
- Of course it has – and she sat on the bed , passing her shaking hands on her hair, and woolen dress over a cotton pantyhose which she straight it up.
Trembling, she took a BENGALA that was under her bed, using her CHINELOS.
As she wanted to stand up, she loo her balance.
The boy, who was assisting her with his left hand in her back, realized that a d hold her.
- I am fine boy. You do not have to worry about it – and shakingly walked to the kitchen.
She opened the fridge.
Took some packages of meat.
- Where is the salt? I am sure it was here when I left the kitchen. You see? When I leave this kitchen, I lose everything.
- They salt is here – he said, taking the salt container from the shelf of the cupboard.
- Oh ¡ is it? – surprised at first, but silence and deep thinking after.
- Pass me the oil boy.
The boy, attentive , passed the plastic oil bottle.
She took the lettuce from the bowl and put it in the fridge .
- Grandma…lettuce in the fridge?
- What? What did you …? ‘ and, in that moment she realized she was acting odd, not normal and strangely different from her previous experiences.
And a tear run over her face.
The boy understood what was going on, and gave her a paper towel.
She took it and started to cry.
The boy hugged her.
- I know, grandma. You want to cook dinner like you have been doing for the past fifty years of your life. It was cruel.
- I started to cook for my cousins when I was five years old.
That is everything I know how to do: peel, cut, slice, taste, stand in front of the stove the whole day with no one else to be with me. In total solitude.
- Don’t you think that it was too hard, too difficult?
- That is how life was in the past. Hard work, dedication to the house chores.
Raising kids, the most important thing in life.
Looking after the house and the husband, were important too. I think u have accomplished with all that.
- But you are tired now, grandma. You have to rest. No one will die if there is not dinner on the table - he said that hugging her, like a little girl who list her favorite toy.
In that exactly moment, she started to cry paroxystically, breathtakingly .
In fear, the boy took her to bed again.
Laying on her bed, she stayed there.
- Bring me a glass of water.
- Ok – and he brought a glass of warm water, as she used to drink.
- Turn on the tv – so he turned the television on.
- Fine. Any channel?
- Any – so he turned on the tv.
- Do you want the remote control,?
- No. Just leave it there. I want to sleep. Go. Close the door. Leave. Go…
So, he closed the door, and went to the kitchen, to set the table, get some soda, put the veggies bowl on the table, finish cutting the meat to fry them.
He put the apples on a plate.
- I think everything is ready. I will take some food for grandma, while we wait for mom and dad to come.
So he did.
But when he got in the bedroom he realized that grandmother was “ sleeping. But…not breathing?
He got closer.
- Grandma? – he moved her hands, cold and lifeless.
- Answer me!, wake up! – he cried, trying to revive her.
- Do you want .e to wat more olives? – he asked, caressing her face
Do you want me to fetch some water for you? In a minute! – and he run to the kitchen to bring water.
She didn’t say anything.
She didn’t even move a finger.
- Open your eyes!, he ordered, in desperation.
He sat her in the bed, putting some pillows around her, to make her stand.
He brought tomatoes.
- You have to finish teaching me! Grandma! You have to finish!
But, she never woke up again.