She said, “Ye ken, its yon big thing. The big thing thit’s iverywhere! Ye cannie see it close up. Ye wid ken it. I jist cannie mind what it’s cawed!” She sat for a moment thinking, trying tae recall what the big thing thit wis iverywhere wis cawed. I sat thinking while she tried tae regain her train o thought. I couldnae fathom what she could be meaning, or what she wis trying tae remember. What was big and iverywhere?
We were in oor other sister’s flat in Dumbryden, on the Murrayburn Road edge o Westerhailes. I was visiting fae where I live in Aberdeenshire. As soon as the restrictions relaxed enough for me tae visit, I packed a bag and took off south in my van wi’ my wee dug. As I drove across the new ‘Brig O Harps’, and ower the slate grey Firth O Forth wi’ Edinburgh in the distance, I gloried in my new freedom. Arthur’s Seat crouched in the distance, beholding the ancient place o my birth. My heart fluttered and my stomach did a somersault, even at my age.
I looked oot the kitchen windae, through the trees opposite the tenement, and ower the red tiled roofs o the hooses across the busy road. It was sae fine tae be there, within shouting distance o where ten o us were brought up in oor three bedroom cooncil hoose.
“Sometimes it isnae awfy nice, in fact it can be horrible. Other times it’s lovely,” she explained, shaking her heid. She battled wi’ the Alzheimer’s and her face went red, she wis embarrassed at being unable tae say what it wis. I thought for a second that she was gaun tae greet. But she didnae. She composed herself, held on tae her dignity. She dis everything wi’ dignity though, she aye his, aw the hard stuff. She wis annoyed wi’ herself. Annoyed wi’ herself for not being able tae remember this thing that she wanted tae tell me aboot. The big thing thit’s iverywhere. We were sitting at oor sister’s kitchen table, drinking coffee and jist enjoying being able tae see each other, and speak tae each other again efter sich a long time. Except it wis hard for her tae jist speak when she forgot what words she wanted tae use. Hard tae jist talk casually and say what she wanted tae say. Tae talk aboot not very much. Nothing important. Just tae talk wi’ her brother, and chew the fat while their sister cooked fish and tatties for the tea. She looked oot the windae wi’ hard fought concentration on her face. “Sometimes it’s grey like the day. Look!” she exclaimed, and nodded towards the windae in triumph. I followed her nod and gazed through the big pane o glass at the grey sky. There it was, the big thing thit’s iverywhere. On this day I remember, and still feel baith joy and grief.