Grandma's House

September 27, 2009
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I remember it well. The smell of the house. Throwing snowballs at cars. Playing Funny with my cousins. The special soup. The pitzel tin in the cupboard. Opening presents on Christmas Eve—why wait till the next day? The long table in the basement. Making pasta for dinner. Building a sign. Nailing it to Grandpa’s tool bench. Dancing in a summer thunderstorm. Playing Beanie Babies. The flea market. Exploding Coke bottles. The grown-ups using only Italian. Bocci on the lawn. Catching fireflies. Throwing shoes down the laundry chute. Posing for passing cars. Milk & Honey. Playing Uno in the living room—the old kind, with just cards. Trying to get up earlier than Grandma, and always failing.
The change was gradual, but it came. Then the diagnosis. Grandma’s voice, disappearing slowly. Mom leaving to visit more and more often. The scares. The phone calls. No more pitzels. No more soup. Pasta made by my mom and aunts now. Getting up earlier than Grandma—earlier than her! Grandma forgetting. Grandma not walking—barely moving. Grandma, unable to breathe without a machine. Grandma, in bed, being fed with a tube.
Thanksgiving, 2005. Before we left to go home, I went into her room to say good-bye. Her voice was entirely gone, and she had lost the use of her legs. She was always in bed now. The only sounds came from the machine that helped her breathe. I could hear her labored breathing, in and out, in and out. She took my hand, squeezed it with a remarkable strength I hadn’t known she still possessed. She made a sort of grunting noise. I didn't understand what she wanted to say. I hoped it was "I love you." Then we went home.
Mom got a phone call early one morning some months after that. She left for Ohio immediately. My sisters and I wondered how long it would take to get Grandma better this time. Then our dad told us the news.
The house still doesn’t smell the same. Even on the rare occasions when our entire family is there, it feels strangely empty. We don’t throw snowballs at cars anymore, and we don’t play Funny. The soup doesn’t taste like it used to—not like how Grandma made it. The pitzel tin is empty. We never use the long table. Pasta is store-bought. We don’t dance in the rain…we watch it fall. No more Beanie Babies; we don’t dream of going to the flea market. Shoes stay out of the laundry chute, and passing cars are left alone. Grandma can’t be found in the kitchen cleaning at 6 in the morning.
It’s the same house, but it’s not the same place. Not anymore.





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Madame Kathy said...
Oct. 10, 2009 at 11:15 am
You are amazing, Hazel. What a powerful essay!
 
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