This past Sunday, I spent the day with Grams. I didn’t tell her I was coming I just showed up the way I used to when she lived in her house on 5th Street, where dropping by unannounced was a welcomed thing many made a habit of doing. Most likely, this is because Grams made sure to offer her visitors – fresh coffee, a soft drink, or beer – accompanied by a snack she’d quickly whip together before any protests could be made. When Pop-Pop was still alive their house was an active one with people always coming or going, never a dull moment.
Those days of entertaining are long gone for Grams who now resides in a nursing home. I arrive there to meet a teeny, tiny woman hunched over a walker who politely steps aside to let me pass, “Go ahead dear, it takes me half a day to make it to the end of that hallway.” After which she smiles as the whole side of her face twitches together in the attempt of a wink. I thank her and continue on to find Grams’ door wide open with no lights on inside. “Grams?” I call out walking reluctantly into the room. She is lying on the bed on top of the covers curled to the side. She stares blankly back at me completely emotionless. I step closer. “Grams, it’s Julia,” I announce. I crouch next to the bed extending my arm towards her but the expression on her face remains unchanged. I swallow not prepared for this. Then, in a moment of recognition, her eyes well with water and she sits up cooing. “Ooooh honey, it’s you, it’s really you. What are you doing here?”
“I came to spend the day with you.” I have to repeat this several times before it sinks in. I search for her hearing aids, the ones my father called about the previous night to give instructions on how to properly insert. The trick, he said, was making sure the little probe at the end goes into the ear canal. Despite this, I must call my mom to help me troubleshoot why the right ear isn’t working – “too much wax, you got to remove the little circular bit and clean out that wax.” – I listen despite my doubts. Sure enough, Mom is right. “I told you, I do this all the time,” she reminds me before we hang up.
“I’m never getting of here.” Grams says matter-of-factly. I remain silent as I know the statement to be true, and then offer, “Today you are. Let’s get out of here and leave these old farts in our dust.” Slowly, we walk back down the hallway until we’re in front of my Jeep trying to negotiate how to get Grams into the passenger side. I take a knee and act as a human fork lift feeling the brittleness of her bones in my hands. Once Grams is inside I have her walker to deal with. “Good luck,” one of the residents shouts at me from his chair. “I’m going to need it,” I reply struggling to make it fit without poking Grams with the wheels.
As we drive, I start filling her in on all of my siblings’ lives searching for tidbits that will cause some sort of reaction. This is the hardest part, Grams fights a mental fog that makes conversation challenging. I stop trying so hard and settle into a comfortable silence selfishly happy she’s still here by my side.
A Warrior Princess