My grandmother died when I was in university and involved in a long distance relationship with Taylor. I remember this because that was the year I got screwed over by a certain bank (in Nova SCOTIA) and the day of my grandmother’s funeral I was scrambling to come up with a couple of thousand dollars to pay my tuition because my loan suddenly fell through and I was about to be kicked out if school because my tuition was due. And Tay was in Colorado because I remember talking to him on the phone at the funeral home and crying because I didn’t want to go into the room and see my grandmother but I was expected to because my mother had all these roses that each grandkid was supposed to place on Nanny’s casket. Based on this information, I know that it was mid-September, and the fall of 1995. I’d just turned 20; my nanny would have been 85 (?).
I was working at the dry cleaners in downtown Halifax just a few blocks from the hospital where my grandmother was admitted. It made going to see her easy, especially after work, and it was during one of those visits where my grandmother joked about wanting ketchup potato chips.
I remember the morning my grandmother died – how crisp and cool it was and getting off the bus a block earlier, at the street the hospital was on. I have such a clear memory of walking down the street to the hospital and walking through the quietly sleeping halls, pass rooms where strangers fought their own illnesses, to my grandmothers room and sitting beside her bed and watching her sleep. Smelling her smell, which would have been Cover girl face powder and a body powder that I don’t remember the name of but that came in a pale blue (?) container with one of those fluffy puffs for applying the powder with.
I would have taken her hand, so soft and velvety and creased with the years of her life and just held it while the morning sunshine streamed in through the room. Her cheek, when I kissed it and whispered that I loved her, would have been soft beneath my lips.
My grandmother died that morning – I remember my mother coming to work to tell me the news. This memory of me visiting my grandmother is one that I turn over and over in my head, like that polished stone you can’t stop touching or that loose tooth hanging on by a thread.
I’m not sure that the time of my grandmothers death and when I visited line up. My mother came and told me the news in the late morning; I would have visited just before 8 in the morning, before visiting hours even started. Did I really go and see my grandmother just hours, maybe even minutes before she died? Was there really no one there at my grandmothers bedside that would have seen me slip into her room?
The memory is so vivid in my mind. All the details crisp and clear. Yet there’s a nagging little voice that tells me it’s not how I remember it, that it’s a memory that’s made up.
Because I still wonder, all these years later if that twenty year old girl did get off the bus a block early with the intention of visiting but then looked at her watch and, realizing that the bus was running late and she’d be late for work if she stopped, decided she’d best get to work. That she could visit after work or even close up the shop and run over on her lunch.
That she wasn’t there when the light streamed through the window and how soft her grandmothers hand felt beneath hers.
And yet I don’t know which is which. Did I really stop and visit and have just been going back in my head to what might have been if I hadn’t visited? Or, did I walk past the street that would have taken me to the hospital and my guilt for doing so created a memory that rings crystal clear because I’ve made it so?
I honestly don’t know what happened that morning and which I actually did. Nor do I know if it actually matters.
What matters is how fifteen years later, I still miss my grandmother as much as the day she died. How I loved her so much, enough to name my daughter after her. How it’s early in the morning as I write this and that early morning light is streaming in the rooms and in the quiet, Clara sleeps upstairs. How, in a while when she wakes up, I will kiss her soft cheek and smell the lotion I rubbed on her skin before she went to bed last night, a scent that has become hers (like Cover Girl is still my grandmothers). How I will lean in close and whisper that I love her and always will. Words that I will never, ever be too busy to say to her.