Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eighty-Three Percent

The woman I knew was sharp
she knew all the church gossip
and 167 ways to make a casserole.

The woman I knew was well-traveled
in the ways of culture, religion, education,
marriage, motherhood, and friendship.

The woman I knew was put together
in the clothes she wore
the friends she played cards with
and what she let others see.

The woman I knew had purpose
in volunteering and socializing
and making sure that Papa's clothes always matched.

The woman I knew would pinch our cheeks
plant wet ones on our lips
give us Christmas gifts from garage sales
take us to Sea World
and always smelled of cocoa butter.

She told us stories
of her life in Brazil and coming to America.
She asked questions
she already knew the answers to
with pursed lips and wide eyes
and a perfectly-portioned dose of
criticism only grandmothers can get away with.

But that woman I knew is 83% gone.

Now her sentences come out backward.
Now she has lost control of her own life.
Now she feels stuck. Slow. Old. Confused.
Now she becomes frustrated
when the sounds coming out of her mouth
do not match what she's trying so desperately to articulate.
Now she's unraveling.

Now she confuses names and faces
and dates and birthdays and words and phrases.
It's like eighty-five years of memories have run out of places to go.
So the recollection of that place they vacationed with those people in that year
have escaped her one.

And as she sleeps, I wonder
at how many people and experiences will
wordlessly slip out of her mind
by the time she wakes up again.

she knows she's losing it.
But outside
she can't remember why.

My Nana clings to the last 17% of her own memories.
Memories she created.
Memories she lived.

Reminding her is futile.
Correcting her is useless.
This moment is all that matters now.
And in this moment, we stand by
and watch her exhale away
the memory she's got left.


Ashley Barber said...

I'm just reading this beautiful poem about our Nana. Thank you for writing about complicated things and complicated people, dear sister.