I would wake up in the morning there, at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and tiptoe down the orange-carpeted stairs and into the bathroom. The tiny hexagonal tiles on the bathroom floor were mesmerizing to me in my early-morning sleepiness. The house smelled like coffee.
Grandpa would be there sipping his, always up early, with a donut or two for a granddaughter out of bed before the rest of the family. Grandma would be there too, sucking on her nebulizer.
Today I am in a rush, hurrying kids to the breakfast table, mentally listing the things I need to do this morning, when the phone rings. It’s Grandma. I sit down with the phone and my to-do list flies out the window.
We chat as I gesture to the boys to get their sister some breakfast, help her into her booster seat, fill her sippy cup with milk.
Grandma says that she thinks Grandpa could use a sippy cup now, because it’s so hard for him to drink from a regular cup without spilling. She says that she has started requesting a straw with his tomato soup, because even being spoon-fed is becoming exhausting. He can’t really do anything now, she says.
I think of him coming home at noon to the lunch Grandma would prepare– I think of him making ice cream in the garage and teaching me to drive his riding lawnmower and never really sitting down except to watch the weather channel.
I picture Grandma driving herself to the nursing home twice every day to be with him, her husband of so many years, watching him slip away. I try to imagine that. She chats about this and that but I know. My heart knows. Hers breaks. It must. How could it not?
The house with the orange-carpeted stairs and the hypnotic bathroom floor and the garage with the ice cream machine and the drawer with the donuts is gone now, sold. And for Grandpa, it’s less than a memory. I wonder if Grandma sits with Grandpa and thinks about her busy days years ago, with two sons and a daughter, cooking meals and settling arguments and answering questions. Right now she asks about Art’s job and Squeezy’s glasses and we talk about health insurance and then she must go– to drive to the nursing home to sit with her husband in the quiet.
We hang up and I return to the loud.