I’m currently out of town, helping my mom go through and clean out the house my “Nana” has lived in my whole life. We are sorting through her things, deciding what to keep and what to toss. . .and what to do with it all. Normally, this is a process that occurs after someone dies. Our situation is different. My Nana is alive and physically doing pretty well. About eight months ago, she moved to a nursing home because her mind is going. . .some days almost gone. She has dementia, which I have now come to know as one of the ugliest diseases in existence. She didn’t know me when I last went to visit, or rather didn’t recognize me. Her mind is stuck in another decade, where I’m a much younger person. Once we explained my identity, she knew me for a while and we had a moment of connection. A moment where I felt I was saying goodbye. And it hurt. A lot. She has been one of the most influential people I’ve had the pleasure to know in my life. A treasure, even when she’s been less than perfect, which was often, as it is with most of us.
Anyway, as I sat in her house this morning among stacks and boxes full of her things, I could almost feel her there with me. Some argue that there’s no call for sadness now, she’s still alive, but I would argue that now is the perfect time for sadness. . .because the little old lady that sits alone on a hospital bed in the nursing home is not my Nana. . .Or at least not completely. There are still pieces of her there, but the parts I knew are disappearing little by little. In some ways, it’s worse than losing her to death. At least death happens all at once, not over months and years of remembering and forgetting. So I am very sad today. One way I cope with sadness is to write. A blog like this one or even a poem, or something like a poem. That’s what I did today as I sat there with my eyes closed, drinking in the memories that drifted around me like so many fragments of the past. Something about the combination of her scent (a mixture of moth balls, Estee Lauder body powder, and hand lotion) took me back to my childhood. Call me sappy or overemotional, but here it is. . .
Hot summer day
Light cold breeze blowing all around me
Her scent surrounds me
I close my eyes and she’s whistling in the kitchen
Humming a tune as she moves around the room
The droning of the old window unit is white noise
Cartoon voices from the television chatter incomprehensibly in the background
I can taste the freshly peeled carrot she gave me after school
The faint light filters in through the lace curtains at the window
Sunbeams mixed with dust float lazily in the air
The sensation of being loved so completely invades my heart
Her essence is here, but her mind is gone
Her possessions are here. She is not.
I miss her.