I remember swirling dishwater around your stainless steel sink, standing on a stepstool and holding a tiny wooden mop.
Andes mints in the stiff and prim living room, dancing to “You Can Fly” and “Bare Necessities” while you clapped and watched. I think of you every time I watch Peter Pan or Jungle Book.
Digging mud rivers with your flatware, rivulets of water and slopped mud into pie tins with clover and grass for garnish on top. I would bury piles of pennies wrapped in Kleenex – and then when I went digging to retrieve my treasure I would never be able to find them. Once you let me be a tree surgeon to get sweetgum sap and even though I’m pretty sure I killed that tree, you were never anything but proud.
You always cleaned me up and gave me something else to do. You bought me clothes and you were a person who actually used the powder in those big frilly tins people keep on their bathroom shelves.
You taught me to crochet and I made chains upon chains, garland for my room and decor for your mantelpiece. We pressed flowers and went for walks. You would always tell me about the things that would be mine when you were “gone,” even though I never really understood what that meant.
You turned 92 this week.
You don’t know us anymore.
We gathered around your hospital bed last night, singing happy birthday. You sang along and watched us all, happy we were there but without a clue as to why. You wore a tiara and smiled at us. Someone had painted your fingernails pink. I’ve never seen you with painted nails.
I don’t visit you like I should. I know that. It’s selfish of me. But I like to think you understand. If there’s any part of you left inside, I hope you can see why I would rather hang on to you as all sass and instructions.
I’m probably wrong. You’d probably tell me to get my bottom to that nursing home more, show you pictures and tell you about my kids. And then when I didn’t you’d throw your hands up and shake your head, like you used to do when I made a mess and giggled about it.
I love you. I’m sorry I don’t tell you more, but I think somehow you know. Happy birthday.