By: Eva Schlink
Amsterdam, 1 April 2008
Holy Mother Mary Hospital
Her face is smiling. Even in her deep sleep she shows her warmth, and, both brows suddenly arched, her strength. Damn. Why did she have to give us this big scare? It seems that she feels it her task to keep on teaching us lessons. It’s her mission. Well, it seems it will be her last now.
My grandmother just had a stroke. Quite a severe one actually. She is not conscious. And she will not be for a while, so the doctors told me.
Sitting next to her hospital bed, I nervously pluck the embroidered sheets. She is the only one I have left. My father left me and my mother before I was even born, and my mother shortly thereafter died a broken heart. I have no memories of her. But the way my grandmother talks about her she must have been one hell of a woman.
My grandfather she never talked about. And I dare not ask anymore. Maria always seems to know how to avoid answering these questions and slowly I stopped asking.
The door opens and a gentleman peeks inside. Did I see him before? He’s old. A lot older than my grandmother. But he too has a smiling face. Marked by life, but smiling. He nods a greeting to me. And is clearly hesitating to come in. Now I see he pulls a dialising machine with him. He must have kidney problems. Does he know my grandmother? Or is he just looking for a quiet room to do his dialysis?
Day 1 Lager X
By the time the doors were opened many of us had died already. Unlike some of us I was not panicking. I was only thinking of how to keep my two small children from suffocating in this tiny compartment. The ones that screamed at first seemed to have lost the lust for that quite soon. Or maybe they just spent all their energy and where the first ones to have died. I could not tell. It was dark and, as I said, my mind was busy with other things. My children, Bram and Deborah, bless them, usually notoriously keen on manipulating me into getting whatever they wanted, sweets, toys, or visits to the playgrounds, were dead silent. Impressed by the unfamiliar sounds and smells. They had never heard grown-ups cry. They had never smelled the smell of fear. They were confused when I did not get mad at them for peeing in their pants. They were only 3 and 5. They will be in my heart forever.