Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
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A reunion at a cafe, a little nap, a boxing match sans trunks
We carry in our bodies a whole host of hurts, of lonely nights, of tiny slights and insults, of guilt for the slights and insults we’ve inflicted on others. If you’re single, you carry the added weight, the secret shame, of knowing that you are first in no one’s heart. You walk the earth with billions of other people, and you are first in no one’s heart.
My grandmother always said that if she ever lost her mind, I should put a pillow over her head — meaning she wanted me to press a pillow against her face until she suffocated, thus sparing her whatever indignities she imagined people who lost their minds were forced to endure.
My ninety-two-year-old grandmother died on August 1, 2009, after a long decline. I wasn’t there during her last moment. Nobody was. The nursing home said she died at 1:45 PM, which is when the nursing-home attendants — underpaid women in practical shoes, with pictures of toddlers in their pockets — had gone about their routine bed checks, entered her room, and found she was no longer breathing.
Day after day we write his memories. It’s harder for me to help with the ones from before we met, but still I write them. He tells me everything he can remember, and the rest I fill in from the stories he’s told me in the past.
She sits in the kitchen with coffee and a view of the soft rain. This is her early-morning time alone and always the best part of the day, before he awakens and she must adjust to his moods, his needs. This, her hour of resolve — not to do anything in particular, but only to bear on through the morning.
My father, as he approaches death, never speaks about it, but I know he’s thought the matter through and wants to avoid a lingering, painful end. I’m sure of this because of the pills I found in his closet.
Before he developed Alzheimer’s, my grandfather was stern and taciturn, but after the plaque started to build up around his synapses, he turned into a different man, and in many ways a better one. He started to laugh at things, like the way one of our pigs would chew bubble gum, or how the barn kittens played in the hay.
Scuba diving, a Mickey Mouse watch, half a loaf of warm bread
People think that crazy is achieved when one day the gale-force wind makes a final, violent tear, and your little craft slips its mooring. Oh, no. It is achieved by you, who, one knot at a time, untie the tethers, whimsically at first, and then with some — or sometimes no known — purpose.