[!--[if gte mso 9]][xml]
Why are you standing outside in the cold? Leaning against that brick wall doesn't look very comfortable. Why are you sucking on that little white straw? It doesn't smell very nice. Come inside, where it's warm. Come and laugh with me and mummy.
Lots of hugs, your little sweetie.
I love being with you in Durban, sitting on your bed while you play endless games of solitaire. My fingers burn as I hand you a teacup, full to the brim. Your hands shake a little as you lift the cup, and a few drops fall to the rough blanket over your lap. The strange grey machine, with all the buttons and lights, with that unnerving thrum that makes the entire room smell like a hospital. When you finish your tea, I take it back to the kitchen, and look for your little packet of cigars in the top side drawer, just as you asked.
Love from your little girl.
For some strange reason, I sense this is the last time you'll see me. I noticed last week your crumpled form when you came home from chemo. The oxygen mask seems to be doing most of your breathing for you, and you no longer have the strength to laugh. You never leave that room. That room that smells too sanitary to be your own, but somehow you still find enough strength to inhale cigarette smoke. The car is waiting outside to take us to the airport. I'm excited for my new adventure on the other side of the world, but I patiently wait for you to unhinge your oxygen mask. I lean over the large grey wheels of your chair, and give a soft peck on your cheek. You watch as I drift out the room, and into the car, where I squint through the tinted window as it starts. You're waving shallowly, huddled over your little thatched blanket, and the mask smothering your sad, sad smile.
Love you forever, your little girl.
I can hardly see your vague blue eyes in the photo, but the splayed wrinkles protruding from your darkly tinted lenses say you are smiling. It's not at me, not that time. I'm beside you, towering over you with a gap between my milk teeth and a crisp green uniform that looked too smart next to your holiday shirt. That was my first day of primary school. I didn't know about the illness then, and I doubt you did either. The mask isn't in the photo. Not drowning your cheesy smile with tubes of plastic. And I can't seem to remember a lot of you anymore. Only fragments. Your laugh that sounded a bit like King Triton's: a deep, slightly hoarse chuckle. Your glasses: dark enough to hide your eyes, but not dark enough to hide the twinkle they had whenever you had a straw between your fingers and a lighter in your other hand. I remember walking through our gate, and seeing you huddled over a mahogany table in the tiny garden. I'm standing on that table in this photo, with a brick wall behind me, and I feel no connection to that little girl. It's almost as if she's gloating. Bragging that you are hers, and not mine anymore. That you're never gonna come out of her picture perfect world and back into mine.
Dear, dear Granddaddy, please come in from the cold
Love, your granddaughter