Grandmother: a Poem

Pretend a person or a moment in your life is a moving box you’re unpacking as you move into a new home. What do you unpack? How tenderly? Where do you place it? What do you realize you no longer need? What do you realize you have lost?
(Prompt by Todd Dillard)

Gingerly, I pull the packing tape back
and tug the cardboard flaps apart.
(Like wings, they spread.)
The scent of White Diamonds,
floral and sweet,
wafts over me, reminding me
of a grandmother’s embrace.

I remember burying myself into her
as she felt like unconditional love.
The way a grandmother’s hazel eyes are soft.
I unpack birthday cards
with whisper-thin penmanship
vowing “love always” and prayers.
Gently, I pull out the nail lacquer
she always used to paint my fingernails.

My grandmother was a home to me when I felt adrift.
I remember the way she always turned on a light
for me
when I was reading in her den.
She’d marvel at my stories, even when
my words were bland.

I take out the prayer books and the holy medals.
I unfold the comforter from her bed,
the thick one that buried us like snow.

I remove her vinyl of the soundtrack to Sound of Music
(and in my mind, I hear her trilling arias with Julie Andrews,
her warble beautiful and pure)
.
I smell her hand lotion and recall the blue eyeshadow
applied every day
(until even the dementia taking that away).

Her memories have been packed away
eleven years.
It has been eleven years since I heard her voice last-
I remember that night in the memory care ward,
that last night,
she turned to me, her hazel eyes watery,
underweight, and leaning on a walker,
and she said to me,

“Izzy, you look so pretty tonight.”

I lost someone who cared for me
and loved me unconditionally.
Like a leaf blowing away in autumn
(delicate and fragile).
Remember the afternoon we picked you up
from that foul hospital with the smell of shit and piss
and I sang to you a jazz lullaby,
thinking you were dying.

I hope someday to be your princess
(again).