A Part of Me by Yaari

I remember that afternoon quite clearly.  David’s presence helped me breathe.  The knowledge that he would catch me if I fell gave me strength.  I had finally gotten up the courage to go to her.  David drove; I held on.  I knew she was dying.  A part of me wanted this to happen before I had to see her alive and suffering.

I knew that it would hurt, that there would be pain.  My father had introduced me to in at the age of ten. Those memories were etched into my mind.

My granny, Mary Vierra, was a story teller.  Those stories gave me the young woman in the ancient body; a body some found frightening to touch.

Age made her a part of me.  The circle was closing.  The woman who was there at every turn was on her way to the other side.  I wanted to give her some of my warmth and youth; I wanted to let her know that she was loved.

I watched the wrinkles in her face, her extra long braids brought memories of the many hats she wore to avoid catching “linen cold.” The fleshy folds that hung from her arms stirred inner smiles as I recalled the times that I spent letting my fingers swing them in fascination.  Curled under her were those bowed legs that made her seem small.  They never stopped her incessant movements; she made daily walks to the market.

She and I had been running in the opposite direction.  I hid in David’s shadow.  As long as happily making love of some sort in my new world of romantic emotions, I could pretend that death was not rapping at my family door, again.

Mummy kept me informed of the different stages of deterioration and that was hard enough to bear.  The night before, a call came in saying she had collapsed at home and had been taken to the hospital.  The doctor had operated and after the operation Granny had had a heart attack.

It tore at my guts when I thought of a knife cutting through that already frail and dying body – so fragile and old that all the veins showed – her body transparent as if she was slowly disappearing.  Why cut her?  But I knew the answers.  She was in pain and they were doing their best – the oath.  Wouldn’t I have done the same thing?  I would have become that pain – taken it as my own; eased that old and dying body into the ground.

I went to see her in the hospital; reluctantly I took the drive.   I knew I didn’t want to; I didn’t want to see her.

She was in a home for the elderly.

My mother had kept her for as long as she could – it was impossible because she needed constant attention.  I knew a part of Mummy died when she let her go …. even though there was no other choice ….

In Guyana, to put someone in a home is as bad as putting them out on the street.  It is as if you have handed them over to Death letting him know that the fight was almost over.  What else could she do? – new immigrants to the country – she, starting life over at 55 in a new country, new job, new apartment – new savings.  Daughters all in school with hopes of becoming something – but nothing yet.  There was nothing to do even if we were filithy rich but in the face of Death there is the need to feel that something else may have been done.

I knew I must see her.  What kind of person would I be?  A coward?  Someone who couldn’t stand to face the pain of someone she loved.  Someone who couldn’t give whatever help was needed in order to cross that invisible border into the next world.  No!  I couldn’t do that because I loved her and she ahd always been there for me and after all to love is to be strong enough to bear pain for others.

Oh God!  I was scared!  I was walking but I wanted to stop.  David was my thread.  He stayed by my side and his company worked like a strong breeze pushing forward.

We passed others – old people – in different stages of decay.  Some were bearable, some were sad and some were downright unpleasant to look at.  I don’t really remember the hall, the building or the colors of the walls but I can still see those faces as if they were yesterday, maybe they’ll fade with time.

I guessed we had come to her room because the nurse left us at this door which was standing ajar. I grabbed at David’s hand.  He held me.  He squeezed reassurance.

Upon entering the dimming lit room I could not focus.

Suddenly, the light came on.

The first thing I saw was an empty bed and, for an instant, my reaction was one of relief.  It was a delay of a few seconds, then I saw her.  My God!  She was so small, lying there in a fetal position, her knees drawn up to her chest, so damn small and fragile.  So lonely. so lost, so vulnerable.

My grandmother who had given me so much hell when I was younger – oh what I would have done then to have her back screaming at me.  I wanted to cradle her in my arms like a baby, but I was frozen – stopped dead in my tracks as I felt my body react.

I turned to the window.  David stood behind and wrapped his warmth around me.

I felt the heat of tears, the pain lacerated my insides – they burned fast and furious.  They shook my whole body.  Oh… there were tears of sadness, of pity, of helplessness, of anger, of self disgust, and tears of love.  I tried to control them, tried to hold them back.  I turned into David’s shoulder. He held me.

I knew she wasn’t with me in the present – she was  senile – living somewhere in her childhood – who could know for sure.  Yet, I did not want to upset her with tears.

I heard a tiny voice.  “Is that you Denise?”  I looked over and she was looking right at me.

She recognized me!   I said very softly, reaching but not expecting a response, “hello Granny” and I saw it in her face – she recognized my voice and a light appeared in her face for an instant and she turned and said quite clearly, in surprise “Denise!”  It was as if she had missed me, as if she knew that I hadn’t been to visit with her in a long time.  A stab of pain seared my heart.  I had avoided her; watching age take it’s toll, sapped my spirit.  I did not want to feel sadness.

Her time with me only lasted seconds.  They were seconds that held a million conversations – a million memories.  It was in those seconds that our loved reached across time, across borders, it was a last touch.  A final goodbye.  My tears came easier.  They came slower and eased the pain.  I had done the right thing in coming.

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