The Silent October
There were about 10 residents. Men and women, walking with bent backs around the autumn garden or sitting on the benches slouched on their walking sticks. Some were speaking to the young nurses, while most men were sitting with their Tasbih prayer beads doing their rosaries fast as they could before their time is over.
He was there too. In his blue check pajamas, too big for his small bony structure. His hair, thin and white, still covering most of his head and matching his mustache. His legs crossed, as usual, so that he doesn’t occupy more space than he has to. He was looking around with a mild smile, not a happy one but not a sad one either. A type of smile people have, just to look polite and hide the melancholy inside. He was drowning in his memories. He had given up on the world and had chosen to remain in the past.
It had all started after that phone call. It was then that he, my father, had realized it was all over. He had pretended for a bit longer just for the sake of the family, but as he had put the phone down, he had known right away that things would be very different from then onwards.
He was about 75 years old at the time. Relatively fit and completely in charge. Managing the household all by himself as he had been doing for years. A pillar of strength and stability.
The image of him, crushed under the weight of the phone and almost dropping himself on the chair still lingers. His legs gave up. He gave up. His friend Masoud was dead.
At that age, everyone assumed he was used to the reality of death and life. He had mourned for both his parents, his beloved sister and many other relatives.
Masoud was a close friend but not the closest. He was just one of the guys. They had met at university. Then somehow had stayed in touch during the years.
Each got married, moved away, came back, had children and raised them. They partied. vacationed, built memories and retired together.
Masoud was not more special than many other people he had lost but he was part of his youth.
When a friend from your youth passes away, then death becomes existent and tangible. Death was a reality now.
As he gathered his strength to get up the chair he realised things would never be the same.
He walked towards his bedroom with his slower than usual steps, sat on the bed next to the nightstand. His favorite spot then adjusted the pink pillow behind him and took a look at the orange painting on the wall above the bed.
A purchase from a long time ago, when he was young and revolutionary. The abstract painting was showing women in black outfits with their babies wrapped on their backs in a revolution.
The painting had moved around with him for the last sixty years so that he doesn’t forget who he is and what he believes in. What was left of that strong idealistic character?
He sighed and started writing. The only way he knew to communicate was through the traces of the pen on the paper. The symbols that had meanings. “Sprinkles of mind” he would call them.
He looked at the photo of his father on the nightstand, looking directly at the camera with his old-fashioned hat and perfectly ironed suit and remembered his last days. His father used to go to a corner and write for hours in his final months as well. That’s where his peace was. History repeats itself.
He wrote and wrote for hours. Correcting and re-writing over and over. This was not just a note of condolence to Masoud’s family, it was his goodbye letter as well. The goodbye letter he wrote to himself.
Within a few months, his health started declining. His mind went first. It closed the door to any new memories, perhaps fearing they would disrupt the existing ones, the comfortable memories he could cling onto. A comfortable corner to please yourself and take refuge from the confusion outside. Disconnecting from anyone and everyone around and surrendering to the beauties of unconsciousness.
That’s how he ended up there. In the nursing house. Between the other forgotten people of the world and waiting for the winter.