The old lady chuckled, chin receding into folds of loose skin that disappeared beneath the baggy neckline of her pink jumper.
“No Gran. I didn’t say face pack. I said…”
“Date palm. I love dates. Maybe your mum could to put them on the shopping list. Oh you mean face balm. Why don’t you speak clearly dear.”
“Where’s your hearing aid Gran. What’s it doing in the bathroom? I’ll get it.”
Eliza shuffled into a more comfortable position in her ancient rocking chair. Smoothing down her long black skirt draping around bony ankles she caught sight of ageing hands that reminded her that she was old. The thought was unwelcome and she dropped her head into one hand, embarrassed at her frailty.
The dazzling glory of the noonday sun glared through conservatory windows, resting unkindly on hair the colour of old carrots and without mercy outlining every pigment and wrinkle of ageing skin. The one thing Eliza found hard to let go of was the colour of her hair. Once glowing with health and vibrant auburn curls it now hung limp, straight and frazzled, in the aftermath of a saturation of hair dyes. Eliza lingered in that strange unreal world between sleep and wakefulness, thoughts meandering. Seeing the young Eliza running carelessly, glorious auburn hair blowing in the wind, skin glowing, deep blue eyes shining with the light of youthful exuberance. Sighing, she wondered why God allowed wrinkles to blot the landscape of a face.
“Here you are Gran. Stick these in your ears.”
Startled, Eliza threw up both hands in frustration, slapping them hard against her forehead to indicate her desire to be left alone in a world that stretched the imagination and disregarded the passage of time.
“Is there no peace in this place for a person to dream away the endless hours. Is it too much to ask for a bit of privacy. Can I not enjoy the sunshine without being invaded and endlessly questioned?
“And is it too much to expect patience from someone who calls herself a Christian? Practise what you preach Gran. Oh! And Jesus is listening, as you keep telling me.”
Eliza forced her head down into her hands in an exaggerated gesture of upset and pain. Then seeing the hurt and disappointment on her adored granddaughter’s face, reached out for the proffered hearing aids. Placing them amidst the voluminous folds of her skirt she gently took the smooth skinned young hands in her own gnarled ones, pressing them lovingly to thin furrowed lips.
“Can you hear better now Gran?”
Melanie smiled. That smile that could launch a thousand ships and cause Eliza’s heart to overflow with boundless joy. She happily returned the smile, gleaming dentures showing between pale pink rims.
“Face palm. It sounds like a tree. Is it in the dictionary? Have you looked?”
“Not in the old one I’ve got Gran. And it’s actually one word, not two. F a c e p a l m.”
“Why don’t you look on that Googley thing on your computer?”
Eliza lifted her hands again, making a loud slapping noise as they made contact with her face. Young people didn’t always think for themselves. Always looking for the easy way out. Left alone she kicked off her comfy old slippers to let her feet breath, adjusted the waistband of her ever loosening skirt and settled back into her daydreams. Once again she was back in the ballroom, emerald green dress of rustling silk draping the floor elegantly as they danced to their favourite song. Matching green shoes tapping out the rhythm on the polished floor. It was the night he had asked her to marry him. Dear Ben. They had been married fifty years, but he had been gone almost five now and she still missed him.
“Hey Gran I found it. I know what it means. It’s what YOU do when you’re annoyed or frustrated. You slap your forehead with your palms or drop your head down into your hands.”
Without thinking Eliza immediately lowered her head into upturned palms again, wishing she could just have five precious minutes to herself.
“I do not do that.”
“Yes you do. You just did it and you do it all the time.”
A lazy afternoon sun filtered warmth through half open windows as laughter caressed the quietness. Young hands lovingly clasped old faded ones. And God reminded Eliza that true beauty came from a heart in tune with His.
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