10 November 2009

Her God Calling

Turmeric stains my denim jeans and Miss Betty calls my name three flights down. Her daughter is here only during visiting hours, and her son, who lives at the end of the drive, only brings the mail (check). And besides, he's got Ginny now.

Her grandchildren love her, but their youth has held them captive, and so she only gets an occasional holiday card that reads, "Merry Christmas Grandma. Love, So-and-So." And that's it. For all the ponies and the thousands, the summer camps and the caviar, "Love, So-and-So." That's it.

And so I've become like a daughter (or at least I imagine so) to her. She often calls me dear and she reprimands me too. I dropped an egg the other Sunday, and she nearly sent me to my room. Not for one less egg, but because, like the Renaissance artists, I had created a binding agent of egg and water that she believed would forever coat her linoleum. I assured her it wouldn't and immediately began with boiling hot water and green dish soap. And soon enough everything was as before, under her control and within her reach.

She uses these things called "reachers." Or at least that's the name she's given them. "Get me my reacher, Laura!" And off I go to find the metal stick with its springs and blue trigger. At each end are two quarter size suction cups and along its side is yellow electrical tape with my writing in black Sharpie. She has several reachers (in fact one for each room), and in essence, these things have become like children. I suppose I might even be considered a reacher. Her fifth child and twelfth reacher.

The other night I made a pumpkin tart. It was a job she had given, and so I used two of the other eleven eggs. We were both in the kitchen and the sun was almost set, and she continued, "I am not a drinker..." For her late husband died of it, well that and lung cancer, and she hates the stuff. She despises it. So she always assures me, "I only cook with the stuff." And I did as instructed, replacing 1Tbs of milk with 1Tbs of rum and left the bottle where her late husband couldn't get to it.

Even though he was dead, he'd still make his trips to the kitchen. He'd come to lite his smoke or come to fill his gut, but he'd always come to say mean things. And once he called her a very bad word and hurt her very deep. She wrote about it the day it happened. And when I stumbled upon this note, scribbled in the small box of march the thirteenth, seven and some years ago, I wept. I cried and cried for the mean things he called her and especially for this day, some odd seven years ago, where her worth was cursed by this man who said he'd loved her.

It's full bloom autumn here on the grounds of her late husband. The tulip trees have dropped their rusted leaves and the deer this season are plentiful. And she promised to love him, in sickness and in health. The brook is deep and the trails wide, and in plenty and in want, he promised. Her days are still a mix of good and bad, and the occasional visitor helps. And as the sun sets for night, another day done, in her loneliness and vacant state, she hears her late son, her late husband, her lost children, her God calling.