Thursday, August 15, 2013

Left in the Dark: Mortal Thoughts

I went to pay my condolences today to a neighbour just up the road who had died a couple of days ago. Apart from that it had been a sudden death and the deceased had been a long-time friend of the family, it felt disquieting to think that of the happy family unit that had once lived together - parents, two sons and a daughter, only the daughter is alive today, the others having all passed on at varying points in time. Granted she has a family of her own, and the offspring of the two brothers are very much around, but that's not the point unsettling me.

When I was younger, especially in my very early teens, I used to hate being the last to sleep at night. Power shortages were the norm back then, so we always had kerosene lanterns at the ready when night came. Every morning, we would wash the glass chimneys and array them out for drying on a flat surface. Then at dusk, we would check and trim the wicks, light them and turn them down low, then fit on the glass chimneys carefully. At bedtime, whether or not the lights were working, we would take the lanterns to the bedroom, turned down low but ever ready for any emergency in the night. 

It was in those times that I always liked to sleep while the lights were still on. On the few occasions that I was so caught up reading something that everyone else had gone to sleep and I was the only one awake in the dark, I would feel claustrophobic and suffocated. Not scared, mind you, but the dark, despite the dimmed lantern, made me feel like the air had suddenly gone heavy and oppressive and I couldn't breathe.

It's not a choice, I know, but given the option, I would not like to be the last in the family to be left behind.


  1. Guess we dont really have a choice, do we.

  2. Different cultures, different places but the same childhood rituals re: kerosene lanterns. Loved it. Brought back happy memories of childhood despite the underlying menacing morbidity.

    1. Et tu, Lochan? I guess irrespective of the geographical differences, it's the time and age we live in that determine pretty much of our lives.