Family Figments 1

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My grandma had a stroke was I was 8. After that she slept in a hospital bed downstairs in the converted dining room. We never went upstate that much and didn’t stay too long when we did. Something always happened that shortened our stay. A fight. An argument. Not that we we’re just in and out but we never stayed long as we intended, or my brother and I had hoped and always left when we had to “get our stuff together”. A few months after the stroke Nanny moved in with my grandparents for good to help her sister and my grandpa. Nanny was my aunt. Technically my great aunt, and she knew how to time things, so she could have a big bag of food, poppy seed rolls, fried chicken, cinnamon bread, candy, and cookies just waiting by the door ready to go. Her timing was impeccable. She was my grandma’s oldest living sister. And she wasn’t one of those people you want to meet in heaven, she was one of those people you want to bring back to earth. Her life was a like a light left on in the kitchen late at night, over the stove, the one you see when you’re walking up the hill at 3 in the morning and the snow’s falling and the temperature feels colder than it is because you don’t feel as drunk as you really are and you just have to get home. Things come to your memory at times unexpectedly, apropos of nothing. Things like that light and the smell of the kitchen and her shuffling around as she got older and my grandma died, and my grandpa died, and she lived alone in the house. By then my old man died and we could visit Nanny whenever we wanted. I still walked timidly through the dining room into the living room and would looked over hesitantly to where the bed was, feel guilty about feeling scared of my grandma when she was sick. But Nanny had outlived them all, all her generation, her sisters, her cousins, her friends. She still gave us food for the ride home, though not so much as before, and once on the road we’d ask each other if we could remember all those other return trips when we couldn’t wait to dig into the goodies and then we’d dig in. Now I live where it’s mostly warm, and hardly snows, and people mock each other when it does. And I never even drink anymore. But I keep a light on in the kitchen.


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