My hometown and me looked the same. One side of the wall, cracked and vandalized under the communist reign looked helpless under repair. The other side of the wall freshly painted with the help of foreign investment looked brightly to the future.

My hometown and me looked the same. One side of the wall, cracked and vandalized under the communist reign looked helplessly stuck in the past. The other side of the wall freshly painted with the help of foreign investment looked brightly to the future.

Chapter 7

Leaving Bratislava behind

EVERY END IS JUST ANOTHER BEGINNING

The crowded bus moved slowly towards our destination. I just sat down with my Mum on the pair of just emptied seats when her mobile rang.

“ We are coming, dear Martin,” she answered after a while too sweetly to be honest: “ We just had a coffee and cake in a café, you did not expect us to leave it there, did you, darling?”  She closed her mobile victoriously and looked at me: “ Your cousin Martin called ME, that’s something new.”  She smiled for herself and she picked her mobile again: “ Is it you, my dear sister Olga?”   She smiled at me and continued: “ You would not believe what happened, they invited me to their flat, I think Grandfather is dead too.  Did they call you too? No? That’s just outrages, you are his daughter too. And anyway give my big thanks to your eldest daughter Andrea. She is so considered and well mannered. She is so sensitive, my darling. I nearly fell to that grave in my grief but she noticed and supported me through whole that unfortunate ceremony. I wish I had a daughter like you have, someone is just so lucky.”She closed her mobile without waiting for an answer and looked at me with deep satisfaction. I turned to the window and refused to talk to her for the rest of the journey.

I rushed out of the bus and ran to the chipped glass door, but they have been closed. I tried to rang my Godmother’s bell, but then I realized that they switched it off at the end of Grandmother’s illness. I rang the first name on the list and asked the answering man politely to open the door for me. He laughed rudely into the microphone: “ You know what, my dear, go to hell.” And he hanged up.

I stared at my approaching Mother and my daughter in a total disbelief. “ He was so rude.”

“ And what do you expect?” My Mother looked at me as a matter of fact: “ You should have the same answer from me, it is not his business that you ran like a mad whole way and tried to get into  your Godmother’s flat without a key?”   I starred at her in an utter surprise and then exclaimed: “ You all lot  are the product of your own misery because ‘helping others’ is a laughable matter for you…”My Mum spread her arms and turned to Basha: “ Bashka, can you please ask your Mum to stop dreaming, she is old enough to live in a real world.”

“ What is this all about?” Basha looked at me utterly confused: “ You speak too fast for me, I don’t know your language so well.”       “ N-o-t-h-i-n-g important,” I said slowly.

But my Mum decided not to give up: “And anyway if you, by any chance, bothered to pick a mobile…” She pointed to her head and pressed the number:  “ Hi Martin, we are at the door, come and let us in.” She closed her mobile and gave me one of her glances full of pity: “ Dear me, dear me, you just never grow up, do you?”

I kneeled next to the Grandfather’s bed and looked at his peaceful face. The clock at his bedside table stopped at the same time when they were putting his wife to her grave: 3.00 pm.

“ He died exactly at the same time.” Martin kneeling next to me ushered with a hint of surprise: “ He always liked a big show and a big laugh. He liked to be in a centre of attention and now he is laughing at us from above, how he managed to trick us.”

I kissed his forehead gently and stared at him for a while trying to remember his face.  My Godfather’s elderly mother came to join us.  Martin quickly ushered her a chair and gently patted her white thin hair: “ You’ve been great Nan, I think they would still take you back to work in a hospital.”

“ I nearly got a heart attack myself,” she gently chuckled: “ He was lying quietly looking at the ceiling as expecting something to happen. He refused to talk to me, old grumpy bear, just like my old husband, a peace be upon him, also already there.” She looked up at the ceiling and crossed her forehead..

“ Do you really think he planned it?” I touched her dry hands gently.  She took my hand into hers and smiled: “ I don’t know my dear, what your Grandfather’s plan was, but mind you he liked to be in charge and I believe he wanted to finish his life on his own terms.”   I smiled to myself: “ I remember, he was always such a formidable figure for me trying to teach me Maths, he was so good at it.”  Martin carefully folded back Grandfather’s hands, which came loose: “ You see, he was always precise, never late in his life, I bet he did not want to miss Grandma’s free pass to heaven, he would never get there by himself…”

“ Not a chance,” we chuckled together.

The old lady smiled to herself: “ He liked to have his glass full in early days and always some young women around him, he was not a saint for sure.”

“ Just Grandmum can save him there,” I said to myself: “ She always saved him and us, always until she could not save herself.”  A sudden quarrel from the kitchen disturbed our meditations. I recognized my Mother’s high pitched voice spitting abuses at my Godmother. I sighed and stood up saying:  “Better to take her back home, otherwise none of us is safe here.”

“ What’s happened to them, what’s happened to us?” Martin shook his head in disbelief, but his Nan patted his shoulder: “ You can’t change past, but you can change the future, you are the next generation, you can stop it.”

“ I don’t know if we can,” I opened the door and sighed sadly thinking about my cousin Andrea.

On the way back to my Mum’s flat the heaven opened and the thick rain fell in buckets upon us. My mum rushed in front of us without paying us any attention and soon disappeared in one of the dark entries. I faced the myriads of drops and let them to burst on my face. It felt like a warm shower, like gentle fingers of Grandmother’s hands when she tried my temperature in my childhood, like a gentle patting on my shoulders of my Grandfather when I finished my schooling. I can still remember his sight of relief when he realized that I will be good at something although not in a mathematical field, like he wished for me.  I opened the eyes and looked upon the darkening sky. I wish to see them there, finally laughing and hugging each other without any worries in the world. I never saw them like that in my life.  I wished one more time to visit PLACES of my childhood which I shared with them so I could for the last time to feel their safe presence upon me. I closed my eyes and let myself to travel back in time into our village, where their parents and grandparents have been born, where they and my both parents have been born, where I was born…where now they sleep in their family grave.

“ How do you feel, Mum?” My daughter asked me and I finally realized that she followed me like a ghost everywhere today..

“ I don’t feel like to go to your Grandmother’s flat right now, let’s go for a walk,” I said to my daughter and followed the rain washed path through the maze of grey tall buildings.

“ But it is raining, Mum,” she protested when we passed the entry to the flat. She stood there for a while and then catching up with me mumbled angrily: “ It’s  a very strange experience for me, it’s not my home, you know, and you all behave so oddly.”

“ I am sorry I did not make it easy for you, “ I stopped and let the warm rain wash over me: “  But this place was once my home and was once your home, you need to know it, so you know who you are.”

My daughter stopped next to me and looked at me in utter surprise when I suddenly without warning stretched my arms towards heavens and proclaimed loudly:
“I FEEL VERY LUCKY TO HAVE ONE TINY PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EUROPE, IN ONE SMALL STATE NEXT TO THE SMALL CAPITAL CITY, TO HAVE A PLACE ON THE CROSSROADS OF MANY NATIONS, CLOSE TO MANY BORDERS AND WITNESS TO SO MANY HISTORICAL BATTLES. A PLACE I CAN STAND ON AND SAY: ‘THIS IS THE PLACE OF MY BEGINNING. WITHOUT THIS PLACE IT WOULD NOT BE ME.”

“ It’s time for us to go home, ” my daughter suddenly got hold of my arm and turned me back towards my Mother’s flat:  “ And tomorrow we go back to our real home, Australia, so please ‘No more surprises, Mum’.”

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