This is something that comes from a lot of confusion and pain. I love my Grandmother very much and she has always been wonderful to me – She raised me while my parents worked, until I was old enough to start school. But as I’ve grown older and lost my Grandfather, moved away and moved on, looking back I can see a lot of discrepancies between my idyllic memories of childhood and the truth. Seeing her now, I wonder if she’s even the same person. It frightens and intrigues me, and it led me to write this little item – not really a poem, not really an essay, but somewhere in-between.
My wife says it is touching, sad and a little angry, but it also made her laugh… she’s funny that way… in any case, take it as you will.
I saw my Grandma today.
Shaking and confused – 93 years old – still full of piss and vinegar.
She’s got 200 lbs of ass rested in a wheelchair she didn’t really need, but for laziness and pity. Her shoulders are tiny in comparison, and her hair is a wild mess atop them. Her hands – waxy skin, taut at bony knuckles, hanging loose and tattered in between – the hands of a starving man. But she still has the same face. That thoroughly confusing mixture of influence. Regret mixed with serenity and love mixed with contempt for all others. I remember that face, slightly fuller, beaming down in relief when I regained consciousness, having spattered my 5 year-old skull on her sidewalk… after jumping from her prized peach tree in my efforts to fly like Superman did on TV.
She was born in 1912. There was a brushfire blaze in the small Ontario town when it happened. She tells me how the windows had melted, although she was only moments past birth and certainly unlikely to remember such details.
She had a brother and a father who died in a war. They were both my great-grandfathers – on different sides – by a strange twist of marriage and, of course, because she only took me as her own. She took care of me as a child – primordial daycare – teaching me to read and write, tend a garden and behave myself during her soap operas… until I was old enough to go to school.
She picked fruit during the Great Depression and badly broke her collarbone as a girl. She still talks about it today.
She blames my dead Grandfather for 7 kids and a hard life she says she never deserved to suffer through. I remember her as the one who started most of the fights, nagging and harrassing him until he was gone, so much dust to sweep off into a corner.
She has lost 3 brothers, 2 sisters her husband and, long ago, her parents. She is fond of describing herself as the last of her kind.
So there she sits in that wheelchair that she put herself in, finally going grey after 90 years brunette. She spends her days reliving the now-distant past, hating people long gone and complaining that the nurses are stealing from her room. She is convinced that the woman across the hall is running a brothel in the Rec Room. As such, she refuses to go near it. She has trouble remembering names and constantly calls my wife “girl”. She thinks my brother-in-law is me with a different hat on. She always knows my voice when I call her monthly on the phone.
This is what has become of my Grandmother. This is what she has become. And she still rests in my heart as no other. It breaks my heart to see her, but I go, every week. To sit and talk and listen to her stories and hold her cold and waxy hand. She is still my Grandma and I love her.