Lithium

Do you hear that scratching sound?

Upturned Furniture

When I woke up this morning, my bedside table was upside down and the lamp was on the floor. It was completely upturned so I don't think it could have fallen over. I'm sure I would have heard it if it had. When I went into the lounge both of the small tables next to the couch were also upside down and the porcelain fisherman that usually sits on the right of the sofa was on the floor too. It wasn't broken or anything... it was just sitting on the floor.

My grandfather usually gets up early on a Friday to clean the pool. When he came in afterwards I asked him about the tables and he just shrugged and proceeded to turn them over again and put the fisherman back its place. He seemed annoyed. I didn't tell him about the bedside table in my room.

It was my turn to cook breakfast this morning so I thought I would make canned ham and eggs, which is my gran's favourite. When I opened the fridge to get the eggs there were no less than eight full cups of coffee on various shelves. "I told you I like it cold," my grandfather shouted from the other room. He obviously heard me opening the fridge. I sliced the ham and fried the eggs, easy over like my gran likes them but she only woke up at 10AM and by the time she did it had gone cold and she said she wasn't hungry. My grandfather ate it all.

I asked my gran this afternoon whether he has been taking his medication and she said he has but seemed unusually dismissive and preoccupied with Egoli (her favourite soap opera, which is in Afrikaans even though she doesn't speak a word of Afrikaans). I think she was probably just in an irritable mood because of her ankle.

Gran's Fall

Last night my gran fell while getting out of the bath. We've told her a thousand times that she needs to get handrails installed, she's had a few close calls in the past, but she refuses to change anything in the house since my uncle died. My grandfather and I helped her up and back into bed. Her ankle was swollen and had started to turn blue by this morning so we took her to the doctor. They did some x-rays and determined that she has cracked a bone in her ankle. He put her foot in a cast and prescribed some pain killers and an anti-inflammatory. She will probably have to stay in bed for a few weeks, which doesn't differ that much from her current routine but means that she will need more help around the house.

My grandfather cooked dinner tonight, probably for the first time in years. We usually eat together in the dining room but since gran is bedridden, we took her her's on a tray and my grandfather and I ate alone at the table. He tried to make spaghetti bolognese but the pasta was so under cooked that it was chewy and the sauce had a really strange, almost moldy taste. I ate as many mouth fulls as I could manage and then asked to be excused. He got a really angry look in his eye and told me this story from his childhood. It's the first time I've heard anything about his family life growing up.

"Me and my brothers weren't allowed to eat at the table," he said, "My mother and step father would eat together and whatever they didn't want, they'd leave for us. Sometimes there was nothing left so we'd sneak out at night and scavenge through rubbish bins to find something to eat. That's how I learnt to appreciate food."

After that he fell silent and went back to his rancid bolognese. I forced myself to eat the rest of the plate and gagged several times, which he ignored. I'm starting to wonder whether he took his medication today. My gran is usually the one who makes sure he does it and he has a history of flushing the pills down the toilet.

A Temporary Home

I've been staying at my grandparents' house for almost two months now. After my dad died in March, my mother couldn't cope and was committed to Fort Napier Psychiatric Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. My gran spoke to the nurses there and they say she's probably not coming out for six months at least. That was last week... so I guess I'm going to be staying here for most of the year.

I remember this house from my childhood. We stayed here for a time after my family moved down from Johannesburg and dad was looking for a job. It is an old, dusty house with stained beige walls and porcelain ornaments in every room. There's a hole the size of a cricket ball in the lounge window from when my uncle and his friends used to play out in the back yard. He was hit by a drunk driver seventeen years ago and my gran never fixed it. She's a sentimental woman, a sad woman. Life doesn't seem to go easy on her. She spends most of her days in bed, watching soap opera reruns on her flickering television and chain smoking. We've offered to replace her TV with a newer one but she always says no.

My grandfather is bipolar, the nasty kind. He is a large man, about 6'4", heavy set with the biggest hands I have ever seen. His eyes are different colours. He had a cornea replacement after he was hit in the eye by plank with a nail protruding from it in a bar fight. His right eye is now almost black, his left is blue. Nowadays he is on a strong cocktail of psychiatric drugs and wanders around like a zombie. He drinks coffee all day, leaving half empty cups scattered throughout the house. I asked him once why he never finishes his coffee. He looked at me like I was mad, picked up one of the cups, sipped from it and replied, "Sometimes I prefer when it's cold." He also likes to do crosswords. He has a stack of newspapers, some several years old, which he keeps on the dining room table.

I am staying in my uncle's old room at the end of a long corridor, next to my grandparent's bedroom. It's little bigger than a small shed with a worn, lime green carpet and books stacked as high as the ceiling. It's also where they keep their chest freezer, which is filled almost entirely with Eskimo Pies, my uncle's favourite ice cream when he was a kid. I haven't been able to get a good night's sleep since I came here. There seems to be a sort of sickly feeling in the house and in this room it is especially strong. I never noticed it as a child... maybe I was just too young to pick up on it.