old woman - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
If I'm half the woman my Grandmother was, I'll be a titan. In each smile she was a queen, in her thoughts wisdom flowed, that old heart of hers was the source of so much I cherish. Some search all their days to find someone so wonderful, yet I got to grow up in her arms and learn from a master of the soul. She was my blessing, my home.
I gaze at the old woman before me. At her age she should have one foot in the grave. Her gait should be wonky with arthritic joints and eyesight failing faster than my school grades. Were it not for the lines in her face I'd think her sixty at the most given her sharp mind and easy motion; but they are so deep and saggy - like the skin no longer has a connection to the skull underneath. In a photograph you'd clock her as ninety or more, and I think that's where she is. It's her litheness and articulate speech that get you, an echo of youth in someone so old. Sometimes I want to pull away the mask of age to see the person inside, the girl she was all those years ago. Then I remember I don't have to, if I listen to her words and pay attention to her smile, to her eyes, she's still in there as much as she ever was.
The woman in the bed is old beyond a natural lifespan and paying the price. While her heart beats stubbornly within her pigeon chest, her skin is so fragile it ruptures on anything more than the softest of touches. The open eyes are not focused but move randomly, white, obscured with cataracts so completely that I cannot tell her eye colour. Her hair is wispy over a scalp that shows signs of pressure sores, pink from constant contact with pillow or chair. I raise my voice and call her name "Emma, Emma, can you her me? It's Doctor Raymond." After no reaction I ask her to raise her arm, nothing. I apply mild pressure to her temple and her hand moves feebly as if to swat me away but missing by many inches. She's still in there alright, just deaf and blind.
She stepped slowly from the carriage, let the light touch her face as if it were the sun that was to appreciate her presence. Cecil definitely remembered this old hag. And if you think 'old hag' was a bit of a harsh term, he was more than willing to argue. Despite her frail appearance and gentle expression, he knew what truly lied behind that facet of wrinkles. Stubborn and headstrong like that of a wild boar, with a tongue so sharp, one could nearly be sliced in two if the woman believed you to be worth her time in the very least, let alone bothered to utter a word to you at all. As a boy, Cecil had the misfortune of continuously falling victim to the old woman's harsh remarks. Always a comment here and there, about his unkempt hair or the way he dressed or walked or talked. It didn't matter if he was in his Sunday best with his face all washed and hair all nice and combed; she always managed to find something wrong, from the way he held a fork down right to the way he tied his shoes.
For three long months the window has been my only connection to the outside world. Without it this house would feel like a tomb, already it's as quiet as a mausoleum. The phone doesn't ring and the door stays shut unless the home nurse is making her call, or my daughter stops by with the groceries. I want her to sit and talk, describe her day, but I have nothing to say that will interest her and she doesn't want to burden me with her worries about money, the kids and that good-for-nothing husband. Sometimes I ask her to move some furniture or make some tea, anything to stop her going so fast. I see the frustration on her face and know I have lived long enough to be a burden. The rest of the day I stare through the rectangle of glass to the folks that walk by, the delivery trucks and the traffic that stands still much of the time. Once in a while I'll see a neighbour, but by the time I've pulled my walker over they're gone. So it's just me and the glass, clear or rain-splattered.
The woman is clearly old but fighting it every step of the way. Her hair is jet black and the white skin of her face looks too tight. Her lips have been fattened and her eyelashes are false. What she can't hide is the redistribution of her body fat. Even with countless hours of hot yoga her waist was thicker and stomach more relaxed. She was at the point that the more effort she made to appear youthful the worse she would look.
At the counter was an old woman, not the kind you pity with their old bones and feeble limbs, but the kind who could still run an army kitchen given half a chance. She stood quite tall and slim, her short grey hair neat and likely styled with old fashioned rollers, the kind women used to sleep in. Her face is made up with discrete make-up except her lips that are cherry red. Were she any paler her mouth would be garish, but against her sun-kissed skin it looks right. When she extends her hand to shake mine I see the soil beneath her finger nails. A gardner I'll bet. Then I notice her neck scarf, patterned with small roses. I'll bet she has the best front yard on her street.
The old woman just sat, sat and listened to the tale of her granddaughter, Tabi. Times had changed so much and so little. The technology was all different but the tale was the same. High-school was awesome for the “in” kids and hell for the rest. She raised a withered hand and stroked Tabi's back softly like she was a kitten. She felt the heaving and shaking through Tabi's union-jack t-shirt. Her eyes were red, puffy and snot streamed clear from her nose. The old woman passed a tissue before speaking in her slow and measured voice. “You have one good friend, Tabs, that's good. It's all most folks can hope for. Teenage girls can be very cruel. They can hate you for being too pretty, too smart, too popular with the boys, looking different, being fat, and just because they want to pick on someone. We all love you and school doesn't last forever. In a few years they'll be out of your life and we won't. Then you can make mature friends, ones who aren't raging bags of hormones.”
Before Lisa had even landed her customary third knock the door opened sharply. At first she thought it must be a child but when her eyes landed on the face she let out an involuntary gasp. The face was more wrinkled than a summer shirt dragged out a festering laundry basket. The age-spots gave the skin a coffee-stained look and her jowls hung a good inch below the chin that she jutted outward. Lisa opened her mouth to begin her sales pitch when the old bag delivered a good strong poke in her stomach. She stopped. The old woman stopped too. Lisa continued. Another poke. She took a step back and the lady narrowed her eyes, pulling her thinning mouth into an actual frown. After a second or two of this grimace she revealed a walking cane from behind the door frame and begun to shout “Aaaaaiiiiiiieeeee” as she charged forwards quicker than Lisa would have thought possible for one so decrepit.
From the shadows steps a figure hunched beneath a cloak as black as the night. From the inky folds extends a withered brown hand, clasping a bamboo cane that clacks onto the cracked sidewalk. From the long silver hair that hangs forwards, obscuring every part of her face, I assume this is a woman of some advanced years. As she approaches I hear her talking, talking as if the conversation is two way. With footfalls that overlap one another her progress is slow and halting. I move to the side and keep walking at my usual pace, fast, but not enough to break a sweat. Up closer there is a smell like stale alcohol and cigarettes and then her face tilts up alarmingly, her features more heavily lined than a walnut. The lips that stretch over toothless gums move and she speaks as if her throat were sandpaper. “Stop!” and she raises the stick into my path, “don't walk through Edward! It's rude!”
In a rocking chair even older than herself, Ivy sits, her body as still as the green apples in the fruit bowl. But her fingers move fast in an exact routine, a white cardigan, bejewelled with an array of different stitches extends from her knitting needles. There are raised bumps and an area with small intentional holes in a pattern. Every day she thanks God for sparing her the curse of arthritis that reduced her sister Marge's fingers to gnarled and painful twists of hardened skin and muscle, the bones crippled beyond repair. Though she sits sizing the garment on her own limbs, it is for Marge she knits today. By tea time she will be adding the pearled buttons and tying it into a parcel with pink ribbon. Tomorrow she starts with racing green wool to make the new school sweaters for her grandchildren. All the while she plays piano jazz in the background, only stopping to brew more tea and fetch another biscuit when her stomach rumbles loud enough to be detected by her aging ears.
The woman sits in the chair by the window until she is moved back to the bed. In the bright spring daylight her hair is snowy and skin like a wax dummy, crudely carved with tools too sharp. Her head is in constant motion as if agreeing with sentiments no-one else can hear or perhaps the ruminations of her own mind, mulling over a lifetime that draws to a close. On her dresser stand many photographs including a black and white wedding portrait. The bride stands tall and proud with a bouquet of newly opened roses, glowing beside a man a head taller than herself. When my eyes flick between the two, the woman and her youthful self, I understand why people call time a thief. It steals so much, just slowly, until the last grain falls from our personal hour-glass and we are reclaimed by the Almighty.
A tall scrawny woman steps into the doorway. The small grey bun on top of her head is so tight that it pulls the skin back giving her a strained look. Her nose is a hawk’s beak, her small eyes are sharp as she scans the room. She looks angry already and she’s only just walked in. A business like blouse hangs from her bones and her knees are pressed together due to her pencil skirt. I watch in horror as her gaze locks onto me, her pink painted lips turning up in a evil smile, deciding my fate. I try to shy away as she strides toward me, crushing me in a hug. "Sweetheart! It's been so long!" she spits sarcastically, "How is my favorite grandchild?"
She dug her witch's nails into my arms and I look into the lightning hiding under her lashes.
"Fine, grandmother, I'm fine," I hiss and I feel the skin break under her touch, "absolutely fine."
Lying helplessly on the bed, she held out her gnarled fingers to me. The old lady's smile was twisted and looked as though it didn't belong on her pale sagging face. I could feel a negative vibe emanating from her as she moved her thin, grey hair out of the way and her faded moth eaten dress was as rough as sandpaper against my skin. As well as her smile, her voice seemed out of place as well. It was smooth and sounded as though it belonged to someone less than half her age. When I looked deep into her lifeless eyes I knew there was something missing from her life. I could sense despair and deep hope. Then suddenly it struck me. Friendship. That is what the poor old lady needed as she had no one to love and nobody to care for. Everything and everyone she knew and loved was taken away from her. She had seen the lives of her closest friends and family come and go and now I was the only person to help her. As I looked at her imploring I felt a pang of guilt regarding how I treated her. There was nothing left in her life except misery and soon her life would also be gone and she would stay solitary and lonely for the rest of eternity in her cold, dark grave. I resolved to look after her, to care for her, until her last dying breath.