Thanks for the Memories

May 21, 2014
I stand behind the closed door of her bedroom. The home attendant smiles at me, offering pity and support. I don’t want her pity. I don’t want anything from her. I take a deep breath and try to stay positive. Maybe she will recognize me today. Maybe she’ll be able to string together a sentence and say something meaningful. Maybe she won’t cry into my shoulder. I close my eyes and think back to the times we had together. There are so many things we’ve done. So many things that she has undoubtedly forgotten.

I remember when I was five years old and we played tag on the beach. The waves crashed around our ankles and the soft breeze blew our hair into our faces. She laughed and chased me as I giggled and ran faster. She had a golden laugh that left me feeling safe and loved. I remember when she used to hum lullabies to me before bed. She would tell me stories of Baba Yaga and other fantasy characters from her native country. I loved her voice. It was comforting and soft. But all that is gone. Her laugh no longer exists. Instead it is replaced by loud screams, begging an unseen force to stop. It is a scream that chills me to the bone. The voice that used to tell me stories is now garbled. She cannot speak properly but I can still hear that soft sound behind the confusing speech. I can remember lighting the candles on the menorah with her. My smooth, pale hand looked so different from her wrinkled darkening ones. She guided the candle to the holder and smiled at me as we watched the flame burn, made clear by the black night sky outside. She told me that as long as I kept lighting candles on Chanukah for her, she would always stay with me. I didn't know what she meant back then, but now I know, and I light the candles for her, hoping that she can remember our shared past.

I remember opening the door to her apartment and smiling as I heard the dishes clattering in the kitchen. The smell of olives and lilies hung around her as she hugged me, her strong arms supporting me. The living room smelled like fresh linen when I slept over. Now everything has changed. Now I hear the beeps of heart monitors and the squeak of shoes on the pristine hospital floor. I have to support her now. She cannot sit up without help. I smell pills and medicine all over her when I hug her. Most times she just looks past me as if I'm not her granddaughter. Like I am a stranger she wants nothing to do with.

I remember that day. I turned the handle on the door and it didn't open. I didn't hear the dishes clattering. I didn't smell clean linen. It took almost half an hour for the medical team to break in. By then it was too late. The gas from the stove had already made its way to her mind, making her forget everything. I cried myself to sleep for months after. The sight of her lying helpless on the couch as the medics brought in a stretcher couldn't be real. This wasn't the woman I knew. This was just a nightmare and soon I would wake up at home. And I was right in a way. It was a nightmare. But I wasn't sleeping.

Now that I think back on these moments I want to hit myself for not appreciating and loving her more. For not visiting her more. For taking thousands of beautiful moments for granted because I thought I had a thousand more left. I take another deep breath as my hand turns the knob to the bedroom door and hope that today will be a better day.

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