...every time we think about the bacon and the beans/we'll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.....
"It used to be when we had fewer beautiful nice things to do that we used to put that one on you and that one on me and that one on you and that one on me and yata data yata data yata data tch tch tch." She grins at me. I am helpless to do anything but grin back.
I'll be back tomorrow, pussycat. Dinner looks nice.
She shoves aside the box of beads she's brought with her to the dining room so that her hands are free to slap the table in a familiar, and formerly terrifying, noisy gesture. "Sit down!" she shouts. Her eyes are filled with fear and frustrations she can no longer name. I sit.
We'll go on her time. Her grasp of 'tomorrow' is slipping. There is only Now.
Aunt D. accepts my tardiness, and seems even pleased that Grandmother cared enough for my presence to have a tantrum at my leaving.
We are back to playing with her shiny things, doing what Daisy calls "being busy". She goes through each drawers, marveling at the contents of each. Sometimes she takes out her hats, which she has filled with her shiny Mardi-Gras beads. She rearranges the beads, fiddles with buttons and mismatched earrings, and puts things back again. Checks another drawer, moves things around, shows me a picture again, and goes back to the drawer with the shiny things.
"I love this drawer," she tells me. "Sometimes, I play in here fore hours." Behind her, Daisy nods affirmation. I go to the bathroom while she is playing. She misses me.
God. I felt better when I thought she would forget me the instant I was out of her sight.
"I'm leaving it on because you don't know if it's not on if it's not on. And then they've got to there there there there there and there."
I have brought a tiny notebook. On each page, I draw one picture and write its name, using colored pencils that Gran has artfully arranged in the toothbrush holder in the bathroom. (Objects have ceased to have purpose. She either likes them or she doesn't. She keeps shoving the phone under things in a drawer she doesn't favor, or stuffs it in the back of the closet- not because she doesn't wish to be disturbed, but because the object itself holds no appeal for her.)Slowly, Grandmother flips through the pages on the book she's watched me create, reaches the end, turns the book over and begins again. I've drawn a heart and the message "I love you" on the first page and the last page. She goes through it several times before putting it away in the top drawer of her dresser.
When she's not looking, I move it to the middle drawer, where her 'treasures' are, hoping she will rediscover it sometime when I am gone.
"I got the rest and if they don't get 'em, they don't get 'em. It can stay there, there's nothing wrong with him."
I must leave. It is time. Aunt D. waiting to go to dinner. The last time I left my grandmother, my heart broke and I cried for myself, for my loss, for being torn. When I am with her, I want to stay with her always. Daisy catches me in unexpected tears with both of her warm arms.
"I here for you grandmama," she says. "I take care of her. You don't worry." She finds a tissue for me. "I got to go get a drink for her, because she miss you in a minute."
The last time I left, I cried because I was afraid I'd never see my grandmother again.
How nice to be wrong; how hard to be right.
(The Battle of New Orleans; Jimmy Driftwood)