The Old House
Grandmother Ecaterina’s house stands at the top of a discordant double-faced hillock. One face on the cleanly paved and quaint Eternitate Street where decent homes slant below the church, the other side a slippery slope where gypsies, filth and shacks spill onto a dirt road. From a well-to-do family Ecaterina, could have done better for herself but at 17, she eloped and lost herself in the love for her man and their six progenies. Her father disowned her while her mother, a fearful weakly presence, lurked about struggling to help herself and her daughter and unable to do either.
At 86 Ecaterina lives surrounded by feathery and fury companions; cats in her shed, dogs in the front yard and chickens in coops behind the house. She is still the force that keeps the family together they all seek and abide her ruling and share in her love. Their daily mission is for a family member to come up the hill and check on her.
One afternoon, her favorite granddaughter pops up the hill. First she goes inside the house and minutes later she follows Ecaterina’s raspy voice out into the breeze where she’s sweeping the yard. They chat for a while and after her granddaughter leaves Ecaterina realizes that her pension check had vanished from its usual spot. Aggravated, she calls, but her granddaughter does not pick up. She keeps calling the entire the day and evening her anger and blood pressure rising.
The next morning she’s up with the first rooster crow, to prepare for a turbulent day. In front of a full basin of water she stands, soap and comb ready when the phone rings and a bomb is dropped—her granddaughter cashed her check. “But she must not worry, the amount would be returned soon.” Tears stream down her chin and over the basin as she bends to wash her red sweaty face. Her body gives way. Face fist she dives into the mini-pool and thuds unconscious on the floor. Late that afternoon another granddaughter finds her floating in a far realm absent and unable to speak, her life hanging on a spider thread.
The next night Ecaterina crosses into the stillness of headstones, her memory a dark spot on her granddaughter’s soul. After she’s laid to rest Father renovates the old house. He builds a new room facing the old garden, erects a new fence and encloses the front porch to keep the house warm. The neighborhood has never been safe, and in his old age he wants to feel protected, so locks and keys weight heavy on his doors and in his pockets.