Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Train Journey

“What station is this?”

She looks up at me, her head raised from the pillow, eyes fixed on something I can’t see. She wants to know where the train has stopped. Is this the station where she must get off? She has no doubt that she’s on a train, and is headed where she needs be. But on which train?

I tell her, “You’re not on any train. You’re in your house --- 98 Stormont Road.”

My words don’t mean anything to her. She’s on a train. Regardless of my rational explanation, the train is her only reality.

“I’m not on a train?” she says.


She shrugs, as if to say, "Whatever you say."

I return to my breakfast, my toast and coffee. Soon I hear her mumble. The same word repeated rhythmically.

“Ches … ches.. ches…” Over and over and over.

When I wake up at night I often hear it. Sometimes during the day, or evenings while waiting for lights-out. We don’t have any idea what it means.

In Polish “Czas” – means time. “Czesc!” means Hi.

But “Ches…ches… ches…” ?? Perhaps it’s more like a nervous tic. An obsessive compulsive pattern.

Last night when I kissed her good-night, she said, “What carriage are you in?”


“Are you in the next one?”

“I’m not on any train. I’m sleeping in the bed over there.”

I’m not sure she sees the bed. When I mentioned the train to Agata, who stays with her day and night, she said, “Cocia's always imagining that she’s getting on a train.”

While Amber and I drink our morning coffee, I hear the rhythmic sound of a steam locomotive:

“Choo … chooo…choo…” Then, “Are we at the station?”

What is this train? A memory of something that happened long ago, when Poland was occupied by the Germans? A short while ago she couldn’t sleep for fear that a massacre was taking place. She called out, “They’re killing the women!” It's likely that during the occupation she could have witnessed a bloodbath from a train window.

Or is the train her life? Years back during a retreat she attended, the priest described Earthly life as a train journey: traveling toward the station where you finally get off. Never sure which station it will be, you have to be ready for it. She told me about the image; said that she liked it. When I talk to her about death, I feel that death is still an abstraction that she can't relate to. But the train journey is real. She and I are on that train but in separate carriages. She wants to know what station we’re at. What station is coming up.


  1. Basia Rostworowska4 March 2012 at 08:29

    Love this entry Pawelku. And love the two photographs of ciocia (auntie). It's good to remember that our old mamas were young once, beautiful and totally compus mentus. My mama started talking today about 'the journey' and for the last couple of hours has been asking 'when are we leaving?' Maybe they are in the same carriage or atleast adjoining ones.

  2. Beautiful imagery. I also enjoyed the pictures of her in her younger days; these images remind me that time relentlessly presses on--and we are all subject to its tenacity.

    Lovely entry.

    Morgan Tolleson