By David Tierney
Gran pushed dad down the stairs again. It was late at night. Dad had been going to the bathroom and she had thought him a burglar. A grown man sneaking around in pitch darkness; what else was she supposed to think? It was obviously the burglar’s fault when dad ended up in hospital and gran would boast of her bravery. Ever since she walloped him with the frying pan we knew we’d have to put her in a home soon. Dementia may have been consuming her mind but she was deceptively strong for a small old lady.
Sometimes she would realise what she had done and would just laugh. It was good to hear her laugh, it meant she was remembering. Our favourite loved one was still here with us. My little brother Tim had this same realisation and, in an effort to make gran happy, kept trying to push Dad down the stairs. He succeeded three times and she laughed on every occasion.
Months passed by rather quickly after that. Gran was sent to the home, but she didn’t spend long. While a nurse was pushing her trolley a wheel accidentally crushed Dad’s foot and he hopped away in pain only to fall down the nearby staircase. Apparently, the subsequent laughter had induced a stroke and that was that. At the funeral Tim just kept holding on to my trouser legs and looked confused. It hadn’t hit him yet. Gran was cremated and we kept the urn on the mantelpiece. Unfortunately, Tim was a good climber and I caught him one day trying to sneak something big into his room. It was grandmother’s urn and Tim’s tiny arms were hugging it close to his chest. Tears were streaming in those giant eyes and his knuckles were white as his fingers clasped the artistic floral designs of the silver container. He finally understood.
“Timmy,” my voice was soft “put that down.”
He didn’t want to let go; neither did I. It was sad to think she was gone. We wanted desperately for her to be here with us. The loneliness ached. Eventually Tim complied and put the ashes down. That’s when Dad came out to see what the fuss was about. As he did so his foot landed on the urn and… he fell down the stairs. We both smiled as laughter filled the air.