The window was always open. The curtain parted in the middle just a fraction to let the air and light through. This was always so, winter or summer, a little light and air was always needed. It was a functional room. No great flourishes of design. A bed that looked as if it belonged in a hospital ward, a small wicker drawer set, a little table that stored a collection of medicines that for the most part, looked like a mini pharmacy with all manner of pills and prescriptions. A jug, with metric measurements, to ensure the right amount of water was administered on a daily basis. Plastic medicine cups, tissues and other paraphernalia that announced in no uncertain way, someone here was frail and weakened and in need of constant care.
The ambiance of the room was not sad, or happy. It was like a room in an airport. Meaning it could momentarily come alive if something was happening. Like people coming in. Although for the most part, voices remained subdued so as to not upset the uneasy balance of rest and relaxation, when it was clear that the ‘rest’ was actually a physical decline. A departure. Just as you would have in an airport. Once the voices left, the room, with its sole occupant, returned to a somber silence.
It was a place to rest and sleep whilst waiting to die. There was one major distraction. A television that was on for most of the day and well into the night. The excited voices coming from the screen, clapping, talking, laughing, singing, or telling you how to do this or that. This constant humdrum of staged activities from decorating your home, to planning your retirement, or getting married were played out all day to its sole captive audience. Even if you did not look at it or showed interest, it went on with its stories of this and that. The TV was also there as a prop. Some visitors coming into the room, ill at ease with the certainty of death, that our social wiring helps us to avoid, seemed grateful for the distraction of the chattering television. It became the third ‘guest’ in the room. It was, for some, a much needed distraction. And like a perfect dinner party guest, it had a huge repertoire of conversation pieces. You saw how smart people solved complex crimes, or you could witness the most breathless human feats, shown in neat little hourly segments. In a room that had so little life, the TV was the proverbial elephant in the room….full of ‘life’ and live enhancing truisms.
Thankfully, there were other more spontaneous moments of human life in the room. The unabashed interjections of childish gaiety. But these were rare. The little grands, fond of the ailing occupant, not schooled in the art of restriction, would bring their unrehearsed exclamations of joy or laughter. They would act as if their presence in the life of the occupant, would carry on as normal as ever. She was just experiencing some ‘down time’. Just as they would be in bed, if they caught a cold, or flu. This was all going to pass and they would have the occupant, their great Grandmother back in full bloom as the days before Christmas rolled out. Their excitement was the sheer joy of anticipation. Christmas-and-gifts rolled into one big shiny, glittery festivity of twinkly lights, sweets and school holidays……but weeks before the 25th December, she gave in and died on the 26th November 2014. Alone in her room with her constant companion, the television.