This is a moment, a visit I made in December to my Grandmother…the writing challenge was to consider things from a different point of view — to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, to leave our moccasins or bunny slippers at the door…
I hear a knock on the door of my room, and a girl walks in, smiling, a familiar face. I reach out to hold her, knowing she is family, but it takes me a few seconds to remember her name and that she is my granddaughter. After we hug and I kiss her cheek, I shuffle to my chair. I am aware that my feet are sliding on the carpet but my legs feel so heavy, my whole body feels so very heavy. I sit down and watch her take off her coat and settle into the chair across from me. She smiles; her cheeks are still pink from the cold. Is it cold outside? It feels good to have a visitor so I smile back.
She chatters away and I try to follow, but my eyes have drifted over to see what time it is. Suddenly I realize she is looking at me, her eyes inquiring and her head tilted. She is expecting an answer, but I haven’t heard the question. She smiles and I smile back, but still she is looking at me, waiting. I can feel the colour sweeping into my face – my heart is pounding and I suddenly feel the need to take a deep breath. I don’t want her to think I wasn’t listening, or to admit I somehow got lost in the conversation. I can feel my hands start to shake and I look down at them. I see them moving, but they are no longer a part of me. I swallow hard and nod my head, answering simply “yes”. It sounds loud and forced. I look at her and she smiles and starts to talk again. She hasn’t noticed and it must have been the right answer. Sometimes I worry that I will give the wrong answer, and I will get in trouble.
I watch her lips moving and the crinkles around her eyes when she smiles. When did she get so old? When did I? When she chuckles, I chuckle too, even though I don’t understand what is funny. It is enough that we are together, sharing this moment.
She stands, still talking, but putting on her coat. I look at the clock again. I can’t remember how long she has been here – has it been minutes or hours? Time gets away from me. Sometimes it bothers me and I feel like if I could just reach out and touch it, touch time, I could make sense of things again.
I knock on the door of her room here in the nursing home, and open it slowly. She is already standing by her chair so I go into her room and give her a hug and a kiss. She kisses me back and smiles broadly before saying my name. I am relieved that she knows who I am. I watch her shuffle to her chair and once again I am shocked at how small and frail she has become. This is the same woman who used to camp and swim, and call me silly names. We settle into our chairs across from each other, and I take off my coat. It’s warm in her room.
I start talking, mostly about surface things, things that don’t really matter but I find it hard to stop. I feel like if I fill the silence I can cover up the tears that threaten to well up in my eyes, or dismiss the sting in my heart. I hate what time and age are doing to her. I hate the changes, and I hate knowing that I will lose her soon, have already lost so much of her. Does she know? Does she feel the change as sharply as I do? I ask her a question and then I wait. I force myself to keep smiling. I force myself to take a deep breath so I don’t rush ahead and cut her off. She looks down at her hands and I can see they are shaking. Those same hands worked so hard to build a life – it seems so cruel to see them clasped so tightly in her lap. She looks like a frightened child, uncertain how to answer. And when she does answer, it is short and forced, and monotone. She doesn’t even sound the same. I keep talking, telling her about what Mom and I have been doing during my visit, what her great-grandsons are doing, funny things. When I chuckle, she chuckles too – I don’t know if she understands or if she will even remember that I was here but it is enough that we are here together, in this moment.
Before long, it’s time to go and I am reluctant to put on my things. I feel guilty leaving her. I don’t want her to be sad that I am going. Time has gotten away from me. Sometimes it bothers me, and I feel like if I could just reach out and touch it, touch time, I could make sense of things again.
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