Thursday was a three cookie day. Cookies after every meal, including breakfast. Women always joke about how when they are pregnant they will finally let themselves eat whatever they desire. Watching my Nana refold the mismatched corners of a hand towel I realize it’s dying that brings a whole new meaning to letting yourself have what you want. I feel today that this freedom extends to immediate family.
How do you pack for the last time you are ever going to see someone? How long should you stay? Is makeup necessary? Should they see that you are mascaraed and OK? Or is it maybe better to leave off what will most likely only smear all over anyway. What is superfluous at this point?
Truth is I am not really thinking straight. I pack a small bag of dirty clothes, and wear what I wore yesterday. Putting together something else that kind of matches and fits feels beyond me. Plus she has a washing machine and as I love them, this will be an excuse to use it.
Over the last three years, there’s been little mystery around how much I hate the state of Florida. I will tell anyone who will listen, and feel justified in my mostly ridiculous position, as I tend to find many others in NYC who agree. My disdain however goes deeper than strip malls, horrible drivers, and hanging chads. These things aren’t only specific to Florida, but the bitter memory of the disintegration of my relationship with most of my family is. I like to hate Florida. I vowed never to set foot in that swampy hot concrete hellhole again.
I’m pissed. Angry. Frustrated. I want something for my efforts. I am sure I don’t want to be on this plane to Sarasota. Flying there for 24 hours so my Nana can clear her conscience and make it through the gates of heaven. I am owed more than an apology, I want to be absolved of any wrong that it appears in the minds of others I have done. This should also include either a check, some profound and meaningful words to help me through the rest of my life, or at the very least a new sweater. I shouldn’t need to be forgiven, I didn’t start this. I’m tired of feeling shut out and unwelcome, betrayed & forgotten. Alone and bitter up north. Hating Florida.
I haven’t slept in three nights. I am so scared and unsure about this I am shaking.
When I arrive it’s clear that there will neither be a face-to-face conversation to assure her entrance past St. Peter, nor the wisdom to get me through the mess I’ve made of my own life. The cocktail of methadone, oxycodone and xanax to ease her increasing pain had her snacking on a votive candle only moments earlier.
So why in the hell am I here?
There is a clock that ticks loudly by her chair in the den. Great.
Of course the irony isn’t lost on me chasing her around as she tries to escape out the back door and the thrice-hourly bathroom visits where she leaves the water running. Replacing the blankets she keeps taking off and refolding becomes a game. If we are lucky enough to live to 88, I guess it isn’t unusual that the ones we used to follow around and keep safe end up returning the favor. But mine is a debt that can never be repaid.
Little by little I remember things. Those little boxes of Kellogg’s cereal she had for when I stayed over, which was often. How she always gave me a glass of white grape juice with my breakfast box, and how I drank it even though I never liked it and always wondered how and why she thought I did. The stuffed animals, especially the puffalumps she kept on the beds. The way she says fish. Her endless supply of the fluffiest robes and slippers (which didn’t really fit me past the age of about 8) and the drawers full of matching jammies I would borrow. It was living through the depression that gave her a deeper respect for things than I’ll likely ever know, as well as an inability to throw them out.
Home-life for me mostly sucked as a kid, and I was at my Nana’s a lot. Sometimes a couple nights a week. Napping while she watched golf, (the best thing to sleep to until Tiger started playing and the cheering got loud) playing cribbage and drinking glass after glass of that damn juice. Nana taught me how to sing a canon, play 2, 3 & 4 handed pinochle and perfectly wrap a Christmas present. We made it through several of the Bobsey Twins mysteries, which she would read to me before I fell asleep. My Nana would have done and did do anything she could have to make me happy. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
So, yes – the last three years of our relationship were unfortunately, in a word, awful. Pulling a soft white rabbit and brown bear down from the closet to sleep with and covering myself with a fluffy pink robe Thursday night, I am reminded that the first 30 were pretty great. And perhaps the first thirteen even saved my life.
I am actually grateful that she doesn’t really understand what is happening when I say goodbye. I hug her a few times as she smoothes one of those robes over her legs and is again preoccupied with a green towel. Saying goodbye to her, if we both knew what was happening, would have been unbearable. I don’t think I would have been able to do it.
It might be cookies after breakfast for a while. Or better yet might be to just have the damn things as breakfast. With a little glass of white grape juice, of course.