My grandmother was a shriveled old lady when I met her first. Wrinkles defined her, a toothless smile, and a vapid look in the eyes. She didn’t know who I was. Hell—she didn’t know who she was.
She had forgotten.
In her head she was a 14 year-old-kid, as old as I. She didn’t know she had a daughter and her daughter’s daughter was I. Now in charge of baby-sitting an 80-something woman, while the rest of the family was MIA.
We were all in our ancestral home—a 100-year-house that had stood the test of time. The entire family had gathered for an annual fest. While preparations needed to be made, someone had to take care of granny. I’d volunteered.
She waited patiently for everyone to leave. Then she looked at me, her prison guard. I was sitting by the door, reading a book, unaware of her intentions. I was a little taller than she was, stronger perhaps? Grandma sized me down from the corner of her eye, plotting revenge.
We didn’t know what to say to each other. We didn’t speak the same language. That’s the way it had always been. All I knew was she wanted to get out. Her intention became clearer, as she walked toward me, her eyes staring down, barking—get out of my way!
“You can’t leave grand ma. Sit down,” I squealed like a mouse.
She looked at me all funny now. Dealing with a sissy-huh, she must have thought.
“I won’t let you go!” I tried speaking up, a decibel higher, feigning authority.
She looked at the book, then at me. It was Luisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”. Wait could she read?
“I don’t know what you’re thinking. But, this is not funny anymore.” I tried to sound in control. In truth, I was beginning to panic. What if she got out and escaped into the forest? Would she ever get back?
I stood up, kept the book down, and blocked the door with both my hands. She walked closer. I turned toward her—face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
A 5-foot-woman who could barely stand straight had got to me in that instant.
“I won’t let you leave. Go back to your room—please.”
She ignored my plea and placed her hand on top of mine. I was holding the door tight. Her clenched fist held me tighter, digging nails into skin.
“Don’t do that. It hurts. Go back this very instant!” I finally shouted.
Her mouth opened to form words. I wondered what she was going to say. Didn’t she know—I couldn’t understand…
What I heard next were a flurry of abuses—the worst—in a language I did understand. She then pulled her tongue inside like a snake, gathered all the spit in her mouth, and hurled venom at my face. My hand slipped from the doorpost. Granny snuck out.
When my family returned, they told me not to panic. She would walk the forest for hours. She didn’t know any better. She was only trying to find her way home. This, however, was her husband’s home. In her head she had never got married. It was all mixed up.
By 6 in the evening, she’d remember her way back, somehow. She’d resign to her bedpost in the fading light of the sun. And wait for morning when she could go looking for home, once again.