Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand
I met a lady and her mother. The lady says: “Guess her birthday!” Her mother says: “Aha,” a bit embarrassed. The lady’s glowing so I throw out a number. “Wrong!” she says. “It’s September 1921!” I was off by 20 years.
My grandfathers died in their 70’s or 80’s, grandmothers did the same. My mother’s mother lived with us before she died. She had hospice. I got the call in 7th grade and my Dad came to pick me up. My mother was too torn up to drive. I remember sitting in the back of Lit class not telling anyone why I was leaving. I was scared of getting bullied; I was even more scared of pity. You’re a weed in the garden, something that doesn’t fit; death has stiff burrs.
Last year, I knew a woman in her 90’s. She had soft hands, I remember shaking them. She told a lot of stories then told them again; she’d become disconnected. We talked about Burlington. We talked about Greensboro. I knew her through a partner, we sat together in the winter-white bedroom and watched old family tapes. Those were nice moments, but they were just lace on the larger tablecloth of care-giving; winter-black nights trying to keep your hot, wet, scared, stressed, granddaughter’s body from shaking out of my arms.
I told my Dad I didn’t need to see the body. So he made the call, we drove a couple blocks, and came back to an empty hospital bed where her soul used to recline. My mother was crying in the living room, I wasn’t ready for that. Instead, I took five minutes with the empty bed. The last few months before she died, my grandmother had become disconnected. She called me by my uncle’s name; told unknowable stories to my mom. I’d seen her sweat, shake, and piss herself. Now, there were clean white sheets. Hospice had spirited away every trace of her. “Better place, better place,” but sometimes she’d seemed happy in her delirium. Didn’t know my name or maybe her own but she was still my grandmother. You’re never lost completely. Otherwise, why would the care-giving hurt?
The lady and her damn-close-to-100 mother drove off. They were beaming and proud. They had each other, had full heads and strong bodies. You never know who’s shaking themselves to sleep, though.
Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich
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“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star.
It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.
Maybe the star doesn’t even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.” – Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun