Saturday, July 05, 2008

Losing and Forgetting

My grandmother's always losing things. The first day I was back up here, it was her glasses; she and I were getting ready for a walk, and she materialized beside me in a pair of huge, circa nineteen-seventy-two frames. "My prescription needs changing," she said. "These are good for now."

"Ok," I said, and we went for a walk, her in her big frames and over sized angora coat with large ivory buttons, and me in a tee shirt and jeans, because it was in the high seventies and quite pleasant, really.

Later that night, when it was time for bed, I walked in to find grandma, half undressed, rooting through closets and drawers. "I can't find my glasses," she said.

"Are these them?" I asked, holding up the large frames she'd worn all evening.

"Those are my old ones. They're okay, but they make me dizzy after a bit."

She and I sorted and searched for a half an hour, finding more old glasses, some in cases marked with the address of her optometrist in Washington D.C (which makes them at least as old as me), and bits of African sculpture socked away in drawers, and various other bits of flotsam and treasure that come from living eighty siz years and never throwing things away.

Finally, I convinced her it was time for bed. "We'll look again in the morning," I said.

"Perhaps I left them in the backyard and the mower ran them over," she said, looking worriedly out the window.

"Maybe," I said, thinking she'd probably lost or broken her glasses weeks ago, that a new pair had been ordered and that this search was probably one of those futile echoes that tends to plague her now that she's grown old and prone to worry and forgetfulness.

The next morning, I had a hard time getting her out of bed. "Is it morning, or afternoon?" she asked at 9:30 when I opened her curtains to let the sunlight in.

"It's morning. You've slept late, but it's time for breakfast now."

I went downstairs, and listened to her stirring above me. She's gotten a lot more independent than when she was first out of the hospital, and I've been trying to give her privacy and room. She's used to doing things on her own, I figure, and probably doesn't want a great gallumphing granddaughter shadowing her every move. After a half hour had passed, I went upstairs again.

"I can't find my glasses."

"I know, we can look after breakfast."

"But haven't I had breakfast?"

"No, not yet. The table's set and ready to go." My stomach was rumbling. I'd been up since eight.

"I wonder if I left my glasses in the shower..."

Downstairs, I straightened the front room, listening to her footsteps as she searched from room to room and wondering how on earth I'd corral this woman, this unstoppable, independent mother who raised five children and cared for my grandfather when he had Alzheimer's and who hiked the length of Vermont when she was a teenager. How do you convince someone that they're no longer the authority on their own lives?

And then, under a sofa cushion, I found her glasses, the one's I'd nearly convinced myself didn't actually exist. "See there?" I said to myself. "Give grandma more credit. Grandma still knows what's what."

After a joyful reunion with the right glasses, my grandmother finally made her way down to breakfast.

"Are you sure it's not lunchtime?" she asked as I bustled around, getting tea and orange juice.

"It nearly is, grandma, but we haven't had breakfast yet."

"But your flight didn't get in until the afternoon."

"That was yesterday."

"Oh. Right."

And then we ate our breakfast, and then we went for a walk.

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