With a quick flourish, my mother pulls away the blankets resting atop your lap and with them come approximately fifty pounds from your frame. Your limbs are skeletal and skin hangs from them in surrender. In this instant I come to understand the fragility of the body. When she pulls your catheter bag from beneath your robe and additional coverlet I pretend I didn’t cringe but you saw me and you looked the other way. I wasn’t expecting it, I’m sorry.
I do my best not to gag as she empties the tea colored liquid into the toilet in the next room. You can’t hear the contents fall but you can smell the pungent odor of your voids emanating from the bathroom. You smile at me and assuage the discomfort.
I jump up to free your walker from the recliner attempting to eat it and mom helps you slowly to your feet. You clench your eyes shut and your hands around your new legs as you struggle, hunched over, to catch your breath. “This is your grandmother learning to use her walker,” you say with what appears to be a tired blush flushing your translucent and paper thin skin.
I lay in the corner adjacent your hospital bed atop an old but cozy mattress on the floor. The coral pink walls are softened by the darkness and the light washing in from the hallway. Your breathing is rapid and labored and I begin to panic as I contemplate my course of action should the panting altogether stop.
My mind wanders back to some night in my childhood when we shared a bed. I couldn’t sleep and so I lay examining your beautifully wrinkled ivory face. I remember relating the story to my favorite of all your daughters the next morning and proclaiming, some twenty years premature, that you looked dead.
You call out in your sleep, moaning about the pain. I wonder what keeps you here. What keeps your still sharp and lucid mind trapped in this dying body? And then, from the other room, I hear your invalid daughter stir–the only daughter who has never questioned you, never resented you, never abandoned you, and can never understand you.