Artwork by Minna Leunig
Artwork by Minna Leunig

MY GRANDMOTHER’S DEATH was like watching sand erode as the tide went out. For years she unravelled like a too-worn shirt. In the beginning, she didn’t put on her lipstick anymore, she thought my mother was Aunty Brenda. Soon, her words dissolved from under her and she would open her mouth to find nothing on her tongue. Her hands danced to their own tune and she couldn’t trust them to hold a hot pan. My grandfather had never cooked a day in his life. He burnt the chops. The smoke alarms were too high for either of them to reach. A neighbour came to see what was going on and found my grandmother chasing my grandfather around the living room.

‘You rotten mongrel,’ she was yelling. ‘You useless man.’

We thought the fact that she’d moved so easily without help meant something.

My grandmother had broad shoulders. By the time she died, she weighed 42 kilograms. The heaviness of her coffin was in the wood.