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.

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