Youth (Presence, pt. ?)
When I was little, my grandmother was larger than life and full of color. It was a shock to see her in the cubby-like room in the Alzheimer’s ward, looking so small and drab. The only thing in the room that was still the same was the rose-shaped candy bowl on the bedside table, brimming with brightly wrapped chocolates.
“I know you,” she said brightly, and the Gram I remembered glittered in her expression. “You’re little Ariel, all grown up.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, sitting on the end of the bed. “I thought I’d drop by. It’s been a long time.”
“Has it?” She squinted at me, her frail hands fluttering up to her white hair to push it from her face. “How old are you, sweetie?”
Gram laughed a creaky laugh and shook her head, amazed. “Well, I bet you still have that sweet tooth.” She gestured to the candy bowl and winked. “You got that from me, you know. Help yourself.”
I grinned back and took three.
She kept asking questions, grilling me on trivia from family trips and current events from when I was little. I kept worrying that she’d ask what I’ve been up to, and I’d either have to tell her or lie about all the fucked up unhealthy choices I’ve made my entire adult life, but there was a definite time cutoff for her questions.
Time started looping for Gram while I was in high school. At first it wasn’t noticeable. Then, sometimes, she’d look at me and cluck and say how amazing it was to know that’s how I’d look when I grew up. She thought I was visiting from the future, and that the real me was still innocent. The tiny little old lady with flickers of youth still in her eyes had no clue how badly I’d wasted mine, and I was happy to keep it that way.
When I finished my chocolates and was toying with the idea of taking more, Gram reached the end of her questions. “I think I can remember all that,” she said. “Thank you for coming to tell me, sweetie. Oh— one more question. When will you grow out of the colic? I love you, but you are one fussy baby!”
I told her, and she flashed me the brilliant smile that was a part of all my happiest memories growing up. Leaning forward she tried to reach my knee but ended up patting the blanket instead. “You’re a good girl,” she told me firmly, as if she could make it true by sheer force of will.“You’re a good girl,”she repeated, “with a good heart. Don’t forget.”
“I’ll try, Gram,” I promised. I kissed her forehead and pulled the blanket up for her when she shivered. “I love you.”
I left through the door because I didn’t want to upset her. Gram’s eyesight wasn’t good enough to see that I walked straight through the solid door instead of opening it.