I stopped at the assisted-living facility on my way out of town.
Her door was closed, her room dark. She was sleeping on her side under a blue blanket. I didn't think of turning on the light, of getting her up, of helping her dress.
I climbed into bed with her. I didn't consider I might frighten her. I can't say why, only that spooning her seemed the right thing to do. I made my voice like butter and honey and said, "Hi, Grandma. I'm Sherry's daughter."
"What're you going to do?" she asked.
"I'm going to lie beside you," I answered, "and talk to you, and rub your arm."
"Well," she said. "I guess that's alright."
I talked to her about the cool air outside and cooed what a perfect morning to linger in bed. I reminded her, "I'm Sherry's daughter," and rubbed her arm. I told her about my other grandma and how the two of them had been best friends. I spoke of their adventures. I reminded her, "I'm Sherry's daughter." (I rubbed her arm.) I told her she'd been my best pen pal, that I miss her letters.
"I used to like to write letters," she said. "But I haven't written them for a long time."
"I know," I agreed, "I stopped writing to you after you stopped writing to me. We should write to each other, again."
"Yes," she nodded, "We should."
I reminded her, "I'm Sherry's daughter," and I rubbed her arm.
I told her she'd taken me to Vacation Bible School and church: that she'd helped me find Jesus.
"Yes," she said, "Mother made sure we went to church from a young age."
I reminded her, "I'm Sherry's daughter. I loved staying with you, going places with you."
"I always have been a person who likes being with other people," she said. I rubbed her arm.
A nurse opened the door, turned on the light. "Oh!" she exclaimed, and she smiled at me lying with Grandma in the same bed into which I couldn't scramble up, as a child.
"I just wanted to lie with her awhile," I explained.
"That's alright," she said. "Are you Joyce's daughter?"
"No. Sherry's," I answered.
She smiled again. "I should've guessed. Sherry likes to crawl in bed with Mildred, too."
Those were the words, at last, to break me. Maybe because I'd said to Grandma over and over about being Mom's daughter (all the while hoping for something of Mom in me), and the nurse believed, acknowledged, saw it.
I still don't know exactly what I'm trying to say, here. Something about Grandma's being so much gone. Something about loving her enough that I want to lie next to her--though she doesn't know me--and hold onto what remains. Something about longing for my children and grandchildren to love me enough that they would (will?) do the same.
Because I always have been a person who likes being with other people.
Something about finding (on the bright, flip side of what hurts so very much) peace, satisfaction, and the thing for which I'd gone seeking.