Lyudmilla Petrovna

Lyudmilla Petrovna was an old friend of my grandmother’s, and a person who knew entirely too much about me. She knew the sources of all of my scars, for one thing. Whenever she called, she would say, “this is Lyudmilla Petrovna calling,” and I would say, “come on, but I always recognize your voice. We’ve only known each other since I was born.” She’d laugh, and then the next time, she’d do it again. I think she just liked being reminded of the fact that she was remembered.

She died in a squalid government hospital room in Kiev – where my mother had screamed at the orderlies to at least get the bedpans in working order, while the orderlies screamed back that “shifts have been cut, there is no budget money, we’ve got two people working one floor.”

This is how people who have served their country for years go. With no one to hold their hand.

And all you can think, “at least it’s over now.” Which isn’t what you should be thinking at all. Rooms get bigger and colder when the Lyudmilla Petrovnas of the world leave them. The ceiling rises up and gets lost somewhere in the in a dirty layer of spring clouds, the walls grow taller.

“Do you know my son?” She asked my mother the last time she saw her, already up to her neck in delerium. “I wonder if he will visit.” He did visit, but then he left the country all over again, so she died alone, waiting.

“Hurry up now, it’s time.”

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