The years had not been kind to her

The years had not been kind to her.

I left her standing at her doorway, still smiling a goodbye at us when I looked back from a hundred steps away. Just like the last time eight years ago.

The picture-perfect scene was the same as before. The house, behind her, was as regal as before. The coconut trees, behind her, cast as long a shadow as before. Her smile was as beautiful and true as before.

But the evergreen green Ambassador, a relic of her still-dashing-in-his-sixties husband’s four decades of government service, had disappeared from the picture.

Her husband, who had let a nine-year-old me sit on his lap and “control” the steering wheel of the Ambassador, who had been the first person in our entire family line to have had a personal car, who had built his dream house with his retirement money, who had one-day disappeared, who had turned up in a ditch a few days later, and who had been dismissed as a suicide case by the police, had disappeared from the picture.

Her twenty-nine-year-old son, who had first taught me “Speed thrills, but kills” when I was eight years old, who had supported Casey Stoner over my favorite Valentino Rossi in the Motogp eight years ago, who had been unable to smile as we had taken the mandatory “family picture” because Rossi had overtaken Stoner on the last turn of the last lap, who had decided to take the job away from home for the higher salary, who had missed the last overnight bus to his wife and three-month-old son, who had decided to brave the same journey in many parts – by truck, by bus, by Trekker, who had given up his seat in the back to an elderly gentleman and taken up the uncomfortable front seat, and who had been declared “brought dead” by the doctors who examined the people brought in from the head-on collision of the Trekker and a truck, had disappeared from the picture.

Her daughter-in-law, who had fought with her parents to marry the man she loved, who could not bear to be around the house which reminded her of her dead husband so much, and who had taken her then-year-old son far away to another city, had disappeared from the picture.

The woman around the smile, who was now a bag of bones and loose skin but had been once the most beautiful woman I knew, who had had the rosy cheeks to put blushing brides to shame, who had always had long, flowing, carefully arranged tresses, and who had always had an ever-present laugh hiding behind her eyes, had disappeared from the picture.

The years had not been kind to her.