Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Saying goodbye to my grandmother

I got back to the DF last night after a quick trip home for my grandmother's funeral. It was sad and stressful and went by too quickly, but at the same time it was wonderful to be surrounded by family for a few days.  

with Granny at my cousin's wedding in 2007

At the funeral on Saturday I read an essay I had written back in high school about my grandmother, which I want to share here as well:

A Good Day

Click, drag, step . . . Click, drag, step. She walks slowly, her rhythm as familiar as the ticking of the tall grandfather clock in the family room. Sometimes, on good days, she’ll sing while she walks -- always the same simple melody she’s had stuck in her head for years, yet I still can’t manage to imitate it. With her back hunched over, her already petite frame appears even smaller. I seem to tower over her at my own small height of five foot two inches. As she walks, she possessively grips the handle of her worn, metal walker with her left hand, her good hand. Her right foot, supported by a metal brace attached to her shiny black shoe, drags behind, scraping the ground.
            She sits in her chair on the enclosed porch, where the sun shines brightly through the tall windows. Music streams from the radio and various magazines are spread across the glass table before her. She tries to read and her face scrunches up, the lines around her eyes and on the bridge of her nose becoming more prominent. Her mouth opens slightly and she stares intently at the page. I don’t know how much she can really see from behind those tan, plastic-framed glasses.  Her vision is almost gone now, but she reads aloud, “Go to bed at a reasonable time,” even though the article says nothing of the sort.
            Her short hair is almost all white now, with only a faint hint of its vibrant red hue of years before. In need of her weekly hair appointment, her hair appears slept on, with the back lying much flatter than the top or front. She’s a true redhead though, with light eyebrows and eyelashes, and pale skin, now fragile and wrinkled from age. Sitting there, she holds onto her right arm, which is permanently tucked to her side at the elbow, as if in an invisible sling. Her wrist droops and her fingers are curled tightly. Her dead hand, unused for thirty-four years. 
            Gloria Jean Axe Davis. My grandmother. A social worker, wife, and mother of four.  She suffered from a massive stroke at the age of forty-five. I recognize my grandmother, who has expressive aphasia and a crippled right side of her body, but the young, healthy Gloria I only know from pictures and stories.  She was intelligent; she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees under full tuition scholarships, but now she can’t even express her thoughts.
            “Betsy?” she calls to me, using my cousin’s name. “ Now tell me again…This one…. I’ll tell you later.” But she never does.
            Time has brought more confusion. She doesn’t remember much, but I can at least try to provide happiness for the moment. Simple things such as going along for car rides or time spent “chit-chatting” makes her so much happier. Her laugh makes me smile, a gentle chuckle, like notes descending down a scale.
            Relearning everything after her stroke, from her ABC’s to tying her shoes, my grandmother has proven that, with determination and hard work, obstacles can be overcome. No one knows what the world has in store, but for the moment I can appreciate my good health and my life.
            “Dah, dah, dum,” she sings. Today is a good day.

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