Overlooking it all was Grandma Grene. From her cozy corner she observed her young grandson under the down-turned creases of her eyelids. Never for a moment did anyone observe the slightly open eyes peering out with perfect vision from between those wrinkled creases. No eyelashes, which had been like curtains draping across her sharp cheekbones as a younger woman, impeded her view now. The sharpness of her cheeks had also lost their edge over the years and appeared like two soft slopes descending in slightly different angles to the left and right like slopes around the mountain peak of her nose.
The sharpness had gone from her voice too. She seemed to soothe and temper the air now, though she couldn’t tell how much of this was the result of age. The dust which poured down around her through the air could rather be the cause of her muffled declarations. Even after all these years she still didn’t quite understand the physics of air waves or how the dust could possibly affect the agency of her voice.
As a girl she had never taken physics as some of her more ambitious high school friends. While her peers strove toward some lofty goal, she had once struggled to find purpose. It seemed as if she had a life time to drift down to the right path. But then the dust began to swarm across the land two states over, and then the next until it had swallowed the continent.
Looking over her settled life, she wondered what could have been if not for the dust and hoped her family would still be part of that imaginary life. Perhaps her son would not look so disappointed and downtrodden. Even now as she watched him look at her grandson, his eyes seemed sad to her. And the daughter-in-law, her son’s wife, less lively than she would have wanted for him, but of course it was too late now and not her choice, she reminded herself sternly. The edge in her voice at least remained intact internally, and she talked with herself frequently and silently. Sitting alone in the house all day long there was really not much else to do while the others left for work and school.
Sometimes, sitting alone in the stark, hollow house her son had built for them, she slept and envisioned herself among her peers again. Instead of going back to their youth, they were all old together, reminiscing and laughing at their age as if they all lived in one of those old folks homes, like her grandmother had done so long ago. She wondered if she would be in one now. If it hadn’t been for the dust would her son and grandson would visit her there? Would she have known anyone? or like being with the elderly for such prolonged periods, or hate seeing her wrinkled skin, replicated a hundred times over in the faces looking back at her.
Grandma Grene’s dress gathered in a bunch between her legs to form a tray for her plate, surprisingly well balanced on the lump. The fork precariously leaned to the side creating a sense of drama otherwise missing from the room. Her clothes had still a sense of the originally bright array of colors now faded to pastel pink and yellow, and blue. The threads had loosened with time, and in places there were spots were the fabric had become so thinned it was almost translucent. Grandma Grene had to be careful as she dressed in the mornings in case a section would tear and she wore layers of newer, less colorful clothing underneath to keep from showing anything unbecoming. She never left the house but she refused to let appearance reflect that unsociability. Her hair too she kept tied up and tediously, if not decoratively, assembled in a sweep across her forehead and pinned back with an old plastic, tortoiseshell butterfly clip she’d had as teenager. Funny that when young, she always seemed to lose her clips, having to buy more packs every few months to replenish her stock. This one she had been using for years now, going on ten in fact. One day it too would go the way of the others, broken tines, cracked, or mysteriously disappeared, but it would not stop her from using it relentlessly. She kept her wedding ring on her finger too, twisting it round her finger, round and round in moments of thought like now as she finished her meal.
While her mind wandered she finished the prayer and they went on to eat their breakfast; a mush of food, she crabbed to herself. At least the food would have been the same, she thought, chuckling lightly with her smart comparison of her daughter-in-law’s food to hospice care dining. Though she doubted Alison would understand the insult to her cooking.