Picture Imperfect

November 15, 2009
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The brisk, autumn wind snuck up the back of my neck and stung my ears as I trudged onto the final step of her front porch. I knocked three times, probably out of habit, and then upon realizing my mistake slowly opened the shabby, plastic front door. It creaked loudly in an attempt to announce my presence as it had done so many times before, but no one heard the message today. Without being instructed as I usually was, I entered and hung my coat on the ancient, brass pole in the doorway where her jacket already drooped as if it too had been forgotten. There was no trace of a sweet pumpkin pie in the oven as I often times hoped. No, the air was stale today like that of a hospital, it taunted my nose as my eyes took in the familiar surroundings; the entire house could be seen from the “Welcome” mat beneath my feet.
“Welcome,” I mocked under my breath. “Yeah, some welcome.”
Carefully, I crept into the shady living room but immediately stopped, half expecting an uplifting tap on my shoulder and one of her signature hugs. Nothing. I uncomfortably continued to the small, worn kitchen. For the first time in my life I saw a dish in her sink. The old, porcelain, blue bowl had small bits of dried oatmeal glued to its insides; I wasn’t going to be the one to clean it up, that had always been her job. Then, as if by instinct, I pulled at the rusty yellow, metallic refrigerator handle and was greeted by the last piece of her world-famous pie. I had no appetite.
As my stomach settled, the neighbors’ irritating Pomeranian began to yap outside. I peered into the cluttered backyard and suddenly noticed that the once-dazzling velvet red curtains seemed as though they had lost their vibrant colors since my last visit. Decaying leaves swirled rudely through the dry, October air, but I no longer felt the need to dash out the backdoor and jump in them with her. No, now they were only another nuisance in life.

As I turned to exit the cold, still room, my feet tangled over a long, solid object on the floor and I tumbled to the crude linoleum surface. My eyes settled on the culprit resting at my side, a gold walking cane, and my head began to throb violently.
I swallowed forcefully and stumbled to her bed in a daze. The thin, flowered sheets were messy and unmade, a rarity in this house. My heavy head slumped into my hands, and for minutes I sat quietly, thinking of nothing but the frozen, unoccupied bedroom. When I at last regained my composure, I reached for the solitary, comforting memory on her rickety, wooden nightstand, pushing aside a homemade mug still filled with drops of green tea. With my heart in my throat, I wiped away the week’s dust from the picture trembling in my possession. There we were, a younger version of me showing off my Santa Claus sweater and grandma warmly smiling back in hers. For the first time, I realized we would never capture another moment together.

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