Thursday, April 16, 2009

Twilight Conversation

Sadly, I think we're now approaching the end. My grandmother, who had been failing and then rallied a bit over the last few weeks, is growing weaker. Since Tuesday, she hasn't been drinking any water or eating. I sat with her for an hour and a half last night, and while she woke briefly, communication with me, my aunt, and my wife was limited to gentle squeezes on our fingers and blinks in response to questions. While I could be wrong -- she's surprised us many times before -- this time feels different.

So I sat there in her darkened room last night, holding her hand and talking to her about not much at all, just so she could hear my voice and hopefully know she was not alone and that she is loved. As I did so, I found myself recalling episodes from my childhood that I hadn't thought of in years (I'm turning 40 tomorrow and the memory is the first thing to go, I've heard).

Before I got my driver's license, she would let me move her blue VW Rabbit in and out of her garage, rolling the length of her long driveway, and doing three-point turns in the turnaround just for practice. I don't know if I ever fessed up to lightly scraping the side of the car against the frame of the garage door and getting a strip of brown paint along the driver side door but I admitted it last night and threw myself on the mercy of the court.

She used to make grilled cheese sandwiches by flipping the plates in her waffle iron upside down so that the flat sides, not the waffly sides, pressed together. The result was a wafer-thin and very crispy grilled cheese sandwich that I think could safely be considered either a white bread quesadilla or the precursor of a panini.

When my sister and I would spend the night, Babci and my sister would share what had been my uncle's room, with its big bed, and I would sleep in the single bed in Babci's room. Filled with photos of my grandfather, her children and grandchildren, it was definitely a grandmother's room but without fluttery flowery things. There was a lone crucifix above the bed, occasionally adorned with palm fronds as the season dictated. I watched "The Exorcist" for the first time on late night TV at her house. Everyone else was asleep and when I went to bed at 2 or 3 AM, way too late and totally freaked out, I remember looking up at the crucifix and the small figure of Jesus and saying "you'd better work" even though I've never really been a believer. She believed though and I guess I thought I might be covered by association.

Last night I talked about all this and more. I think she heard me talking though I'm not sure if she understood. It was more for me, I guess, a reliving of elements from the 39 years and 364 days in which she is playing such an important part of my life. I'll be back again, talking to her tonight and tomorrow and as long as I still have her hand to hold as she held mine so many times in the past.

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