/ In the past Quarry maker Village built in the 16th Century by the Croatian Quarry makers running for their lives from a Turkish Army.
Now one of the Bratislava fast growing suburbs./
APRIL 20, 2008
A gusty wind rustled the dry leaves around us. We moved with Martin side by side holding the big funeral reef from fresh flowers between us. The huge golden ribbon with decoratively written: ‘ A Sweet Sleep our dear Grandmother’ was wrapped around it. I followed the muddy path between the rows of ancient graves built two centuries ago and recognized one with the three distinctive stone pigeons.
“ This is the grave of our Grandmother’s younger sister who died at the end of the war,” I exclaimed enthusiastically: “ We used to plant fresh flowers on it every Spring.” I looked at the dry earth and a couple of dead leaves on top and sighed: “ It is Spring again.”
Martin nodded: “ She was just seventeen and she is buried there with her girlfriends, their municipal factory, where they worked was bombed.”
“ No those again, even around here,” Basha complained walking behind us.
I looked over the fence on the identical grey blocks of flats which loomed on the right side. People from the million of tiny windows looked down on us like on some puppet procession for their entertainment.
Martin shrugged his shoulders: “ Those flats stand there for so long that I don’t even notice them, I think it’s a little bit creepy to live so close to a graveyard, but hey if someone offers me a place there I take it.”
“ I remember our village finishing here,” I sighed: “ We used to go with Grandmother to visit her old Mum just where the first of the flats stand. It was white washed cottage and there were green woods and rolling hills with vineyards all around us.”
Suddenly we stopped in the middle of the graveyard. There stood a little whitewashed house. I could see Grandmother’s coffin inside and people sitting at the back praying and whaling.
I saw my Mum’s lonely figure walking up to us, fixing her decorative scarf holding her grey hair tight in a fashionable way.
“ I hope you will remember to stand next to me,” she muttered approaching: “ I don’t want to look like I have no one.
I nodded and we entered the morgue.
“ Hey, and what about the Grandfather, is he not coming?” Mum stopped me again next to the coffin.
“ No, he does not feel strong enough to come,” Martin answered quietly and we laid the reef gently on the floor.
I looked up and my Grandmother was there. Her motionless face looked like carved from wax but lost the worried look I remembered so much.
“ It does not look like her,” I gasped.
“ It was not her for a long time,” my cousin Vera stood next to me and patted my arm: “ Once you loose the sense of who you are and where you belong, there is no much left to confine you.”
I was thinking about her words when I noticed my mum’s stern look from the corner and I turned to join her. There was my daughter standing just behind
me, I squeezed her hand gratefully and beckoned her to follow me.
I stumbled across the stone floor and the crying old lady in a simple grey coat stood from the nearby chair and got hold of my arm.
“ Thank you, auntie Olga,” I muttered and gave her a quick hug. When I looked over her shoulder I saw her three daughters with their husbands and children I could not recognize, sitting in the next row.
Two of my older cousins with whom I used to play in my old Grandmother’s house nodded in recognition and continued in series of funeral pray I forgot long time ago.
I supported my head on the cold wall next to my Mother and sadly looked around. There was my family. My Godmother and her family, standing motionlessly on the right side of the wall, ignored the rest of the family and supporting each other.
Me, my daughter and my mother stood on the left side of the wall, looking confused and lost. Except of course… my mother.
“ Look at this Gypsy girlfriend of Martin, she has the same scarf in her hair like me, it’s a new style, you know?” She followed my gaze and whispered in my ear proudly.
“ Look at my auntie Olga family,” I whispered in her ear and nodded towards the chairs in the middle, where her big family sat confidently spread out: “ They somehow look at ease in this dreadful place if I don’t mention their loud crying and whaling.”
“ They just brought one little bunch of flowers for Nan’s funeral, imagine that, all of them together,” my Mum exclaimed victoriously: “ Olga told me that they don’t have enough money, nonsense,” my Mum shook her head: “ Andrea’s husband manages the Mercedes firm here, Andrea was always clever don’t you think, but anyway I bought her a proper reef and I am the one without money…”
I closed my eyes and suddenly I noticed that my Mum stopped talking. I looked at her in surprise.
She gave me one of her sideway look and added quietly: “ One more thing for you to know, it is your auntie Olga’s job to cry and recite prays on funerals for money so of course she knows how to do it properly…”
I turned away from my Mum’s whispering and starred at my sitting cousins. They have been like sisters to me.
Finally, my eldest cousin Andrea stood up from the chair and approached me. She sobbed when she gave me a hug and I suddenly felt that it was all pretensions.
I am not going to play your game, my dear cousin, I thought to myself and smiled at her sweetly: “ There is nothing to cry about, she did not have a happy life but at least long one.”
She looked at me in surprise and dubbed the corners of her eyes quickly with a tissue: “ It looks like you forgot what is expected of you here,” she supported her head on the wall next to mine and asked me with a twinkle in her eyes: “ Do you really have everything so easy in Australia that you forgot to cry even at funerals?”
I smiled at her and shook my head in disbelief. After a while I whispered to her ear: “ Do you remember our uncle’s funeral, we have been about twelve.”
“ You were twelve, I was eleven,” she whispered cheekily back and I recognized my old rival from my childhood: “ Always older and always prepared to win.”
“ And you outwitting me in the last moment,” I nudged her: “ But you sacrificed your younger sister, “ I nodded towards Ingrid approaching us:
“ And she was the one who took our blame and Grandmother punished her. ‘’I remember kneeling the corner for hours,” said Ingrid and then gave me a big hug: “But at least you kneeled next to me and gave me your supper, because you felt guilty.”
“ And I ate it all in the end,” Andrea laughed victoriously, but quickly put a hand across her mouth noticing the astonished looks around. She then whispered in my ear with a satisfaction: “ I ate hers and your supper as well because she was too scared of me to refuse to give it to me.”
“ You did not,” I looked at her horrified.
“ Yes, she did,” Ingrid smiled sadly: “ Anyway it was just a couple of boiled potatoes with a dollop of butter and it was a long time ago, think about Grandma now.”
“ She nearly fell into our uncle’s grave, remember, she was so sad that her son died.” Andrea whispered again: “Can you imagine, we are in his age now, it’s scary.” She shivered.
The priest came and blessed the coffin before it was carried away.
We joined the procession which slowly moved towards the oldest part of the graveyard.
“ Where are we going, our uncle’s grave is in opposite direction, their names are carved there already…” Andrea followed me mumbling.
“ Not their names, just our family surname,” Ingrid caught up with us:
“ That’s mean any of us can be buried there.”
“ No, thank you, “ Andrea spit it out and looked around horrified:
“ These graves are here from the end of the 19 century, she can’t be…”
The procession stopped in front of the big hole next to the carved stoned family gravestone with ‘ Mazurkovich’ written on it.”
“ It’s Grandad’s family, he decided for her, like always,” Andrea said annoyed.
“ I bet she wanted to be buried with her son, she always mentioned it,” Ingrid added sheepishly.
Andrea turned to her in surprise: “ And when was the last time you talked to her in the last fifteen years?”
Ingrid started to cry: “ I was there more than you were.”
Andrea just waved at us and moved closer to the grave. I saw my Mum standing there too and suddenly I realized she asked me to be close to her. Andrea turned to me with a victorious glare and put the arms around my Mum’s shoulders. I looked at Ingrid. She just shrugged and I knew what she wanted to say to me. It is Andrea like always, what you have expected.
I clinched my teeth and suddenly realized it was a replay of our childhood.
I turned around as to leave and there was my daughter standing close to me. She squeezed my hand and I knew I was all right. We watched Grandmother’s coffin disappearing in a big hole. Together we threw a handful of soft moist soil on top of the Grandmother’s coffin. The burial was over.
“Why?” I asked my Godmother who stayed behind arranging the flowers on the freshly covered grave when everyone else moved away.
“The old family feud, I think,” she shrugged: “ You know that Grandfather and your uncle never went along, he was not even allowed to visit Grandma when he was around.”
“ But the Grandma wanted to be with her son, he had no right to do it.”
“ I was surprised when he told me, but he paid for her funeral and it was his wish.” She looked at me and sighed: “ His conscience is not clear towards his son, do you blame him he does not want to lay in the same grave with him?”
“ And what about Grandma?” I shouted suddenly and saw some of the leaving people turning around in a surprise. My Mother was standing just few paces away and looked at me with annoyance.
My Godmother noticed her too and smiled at me: “ You better go, Your Mother is waiting.
When she saw I was not moving she tapped me gently on a shoulder and whispered: “ Your Mother hates me enough without your interference so I better be moving.” Before she left I heard her last words: “ Your Grandma forgave your Grandfather everything, she forgave him long time ago.”
I stood there dumb folded when finally my daughter approached me and pointed at my Mother.
“ I see you are doing it by purpose,” my Mum muttered through her clenched teeth when I approached her.
I did not answer and we left the graveyard in icy silence. The wind blew heavily and dark clouds gathered all around us. I shuddered in sudden discomfort. My Mother sped up across the street without looking at us.
“ Better to follow her,” I beckoned to my daughter and we crossed the busy street together.
We looked at each other in disbelief when she opened the door of the small cozy café, but gratefully went inside to avoid the icy wind.
I sat there drinking hot tea looking across at the deserted graveyard, where I spent so much time in my childhood with Grandmother looking after graves.
“ I wonder who will look after her grave now?” I wondered loudly.
My Mum gave me one of her annoyed look and pushed the big chocolate cake in front of me: “ You know it will not be you, you can not wait to leave so why bother, my dear?” She spitted the last words and looked at me victoriously: “ Can you?”
I turned my head away. When I looked up my Mother changed her expression and with the sweetest smile possible pushed the cake closer to me: “ Eat my dear, you look terrible,” she patted my arm gently: “ Better you take example from your daughter, it’s look like she has more sense than you.”
I looked at my daughter. She rolled her eyes and continued eating her cake.
I picked my spoon, when my mobile rang. My Mother smiled at me and touched my hand: “ It is you favorite one, is it?” She let my hand go and started her cake: “ You see, I remember.”
I looked at the number. I missed the call. It was Martin.
I tasted the first bite when the mobile rang again. I quickly grabbed it and ran outside.
“ Quickly come to our house,” Martin said to me gravely.
“ Martin, what’s happened, is it Grandfather?”
“ Come, please,” he repeated gravely.
“ But I have to bring my Mother with me, you know?” I mumbled.
“ Just bring her along.” He said finally and hanged the phone.
I came slowly inside and said quietly: “ I think Grandfather is dead.”
“ That’s bizarre,” my Mum shook her head and continued eating her cake: “ I am sure you misunderstood, finish your cake and we will talk about it.”
“ I am going there,” I picked up my bag
My Mother pushed her plate annoyingly: “ And what about me, you know they don’t want me there?’
I looked her in the eyes and said quietly: “ We are all going, you have been called too, it is your Father and my Grandfather.”
“ You think, I don’t know that,” she replied annoyed avoiding my stare.
MY GRANDPARENTS RAISED ME AND TAUGHT ME RESPECT. THEY TAUGHT ME MY RIGHTS AND MY OBLIGATIONS.
I KNEW MY RIGHTS IN VERY YOUNG AGE HOWEVER I WAS TOLD THAT EVERYONE ELSE HAS EXACTLY THE SAME RIGHTS
WHIGH DESERVE EXACTLY THE SAME RESPECT. I LEARNT LATER IN LIFE THAT NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS. RESPECT IS THE FOUNDATION OF ANY RELATIONSHIP. UNFORTUNATELY; MODERN
LIVING HAS INTRODUCED STANDARDS FOR US TO USE TO DETERMINE WHICH PEOPLE DESERVE OUR RESPECT. I BELIEVE
WE SHOULD SHOW OUR RESPECT TO EVERYONE. JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS DID.
SOMETIMES IT IS HARD. SOMETIMES WE FOUND PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT WORTHY OF OUR RESPECT; PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT ABLE TO BUILD LOVING AND TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT TRUST AND RESPECT OTHERS.
I REALIZED THAT I CAN NOT MAKE CHANGES IN OTHERS BUT I CAN MAKE CHANGES IN MYSELF; TO FORGET AND FORGIVE;
TO STRIVE TO BE BETTER HUMAN BEING; TO EMPATHIZE AND SHOW RESPECT JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS DID.