It is known by 5-year-olds everywhere that old ladies do not move very fast. No matter how much you pull them, beg them, and reason with them, they will still take life at their own leisurely pace. And this is much to the annoyance of their young companions.
Our family loved to visit Great-Grandma Dot’s dolphin-filled house. We’d pile in our car and drive for a while until we reached the little white house set back from the others. She would always be waiting for us in her favorite chair. A red squashy armchair that was soft and worn, just like her. She would sit covered in a smooth dolphin blanket surrounded by pictures of the creatures, a dolphin-shaped lamp illuminating her cloud of white hair.
My siblings and I would fan out around the house. Some would run to her backyard to play with the clothesline and others would raid her kitchen where there were animal crackers in a big, bear-shaped container. Sometimes we listened stories on records in her back room, fascinated by the big shiny black disks going round and round.
Grandma Dot herself, would tell stories about West Virginia with her Southern accent. Her cat, KC, short for “Kitty Cat,” would occasionally make an appearance to the delight of us children as KC was a rather reclusive cat.
When I was five, I went with my Grandma Dot, as well as my grandma, Nana, to a park. It wasn’t a very exciting park as it was the sort of park where grown-ups would sit on benches the sun and most likely fall asleep. Grandma Dot sat down on of these sunny benches while Nana watched over her. Being five and filled with the energy old ladies no longer have, I could not sit still. I bounded away along the various cement paths to explore.
Stopping now and then to peer at a flower or pretty stone, I went further and further from my old lady caretakers. Suddenly I stopped short. My five-year-old mind could barely process what I saw. In front of me was a pool of water, sunk in the ground. In the water there were fish. What seemed like hundreds of navy blue fish, packed together, swimming against each other, scales glittering under the golden rays of sun. The fish were enormous, nearly spanning the width of my short, tubby arms. These fish were the coolest things I had ever seen in my short five year life. I had to show Nana and Grandma Dot. I raced back to find them, miraculously I had not gotten lost.
“Come see this! Oh it’s so cool! Fish, Grandma Dot. Fish! You guys come ON!” I raced back and forth between fish and old ladies. I stopped only to make sure the fish were still there and were not going anywhere.
After much racing around, begging and pleading I finally got Nana and Grandma Dot to the fish. They agreed that the fish were indeed, very cool. They made a note to visit this park more often. I glowed happily having been the one to discover what might become something visited more often by the Baker family. I skipped around, still bouncing with childish energy.
Every time we visited her after that day. She’d look at me with her dolphin-blue eyes, take my hand in hers and say in a fragile voice, “Let's go see the fish again sometime.” I nodded and agreed because I wanted to also. It had been one of the only times when it was just me and no siblings. In my family it was all of us or none of us. Spending time alone with relatives was rare.
I got home from school one day when I was 8 years old on a bright crisp sunny day, to find my mom crying on the couch with my sister close by. My mom looked at me with tear streaked eyes “Grandma Dot died.” I was filled with a sick feeling. Something in my stomach stirred and coiled around my throat. I collapsed on the couch next to my mother. “We never saw the fish,” I whispered. Tears forming crystal streams down my face. Streaks where fish would never swim.