At the start, from time to time, there were instances when I would forget that mother was dead, father was dead, or Harold was dead, or that I was an old and sick woman. For the longest time, when being corrected, I believed others were spiteful, trying to prove me wrong constantly.
The view from my window is of a steel grey skyline pulling the azure sky down. An airplane deposits a vapor trail of white across the blueness. Should the view be familiar to me? Should I know it? Like my table lamp, framed photographs, and bed linens, there are days when the view from my window and the things inside my room upset me, because I remember that I am not at home. My home, filled with my toys, my clothes, my piano, my schoolbooks, my lace curtains billowing into the bedroom that I shared with my sister, Marguerite.
“Marguerite?” I call to her. “Why hasn’t she come to visit me here?”
“She’s been dead for the last ten years,” the woman tells me. “Don’t you even know who I am, Mom?” she asks, and that makes me mad.
“Marguerite is dead?” Then I remember, briefly, that she is. I remember that my days, nights, and the seconds that fill them lack the prospect of good things to come. The definition of a youthful outlook, hope, deserts me. My future is now in my past. The tears come, involuntarily. I must remind myself to take a deep breath between sobs. The stranger reaches her arm around my shoulder, and I realize that I am wearing a nightgown. It has tiny blue flowers on it. My mother’s china, tiny blue flowers, with little green leaves. My mother’s china, stacked in our hutch in our dining room, dinner plates standing upright, cups and saucers stacked in between. On display, in our hutch, in our dining room, with the flowered wallpaper, and the white wainscot.
“Let’s get you back to bed,” she says. I am no longer in the dining room. I am in a room with a stranger, and a bed, a bedside locker, a lamp.
Forgetfulness brings happiness until strangers tell me they are my daughters, sons or friends from long ago. Because of this, my story, begins where I remember the beginning, though, in truth, it could be the middle or end, and I can’t be sure if it is.
The past to me is a distant dwelling, filled with things I might have done, people I might have known, places I might have been. My past could be the past of someone who shared it with me in conversation. I think I can play the piano, I think I can play it proficiently, but there is no piano here. Nothing makes sense today; it is unsettling to live in ambivalence.
“Harold, my husband. Where is he? Do you know him?”
“Harold was your son,” the woman says, leading me from the window to the bed. She looks familiar, but I can’t place her. Her eyes stare into mine; there is a searching in the green of her iris; a wanting to connect with me, a longing that scares me and makes me look away. Disturbing me, that’s what she’s doing.
“God dammit! Take your hands off me!”
“You’ll only agitate her if you keep correcting her,” a young man standing at the end of the bed says. It’s John, my grandson. If I remember one thing, if I remember just one thing it is that I love my grandson John. And John is here.
“John! Come give me a hug!”
“Nana!” He hugs me, and then props the pillow behind my head. “There,” he says. “Comfy?”
“She remembers who you are,” the woman says, and sits beside me on the bed. Should I know her too?
Maybe she is from my childhood, and we are both so greatly altered with age we remain unrecognizable to each other. However, that can’t be the case. I am home, with my parents, in our house. No, that can’t be either. John is…, John is my grandson.
The past remains muddled and murky; a thick soupy vision with fleeting images that I know must be part of my memories, a collection of moving photographs of faces that I stare into, and fight to recall who is who. Most days I wish I were home again. But then, I am. I am home. In the back country of White Plains, with trees in full plumage and our new shiny red Delahaye 135 convertible with the tan roof up, sitting regally in our driveway.
A bird lands on the windowsill, and shivers. It is a bitter cold morning in October. The frost arranges white lustrous triangles into the window crooks, and for once the city beyond looks crisp and clean. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it stayed like this, unruffled, composed, and still? It is a beautiful scene to consider.
“Sarah, darling, my shoulders are cold. Will you please give me that shawl over there?”
She places the shawl around my shoulders and I hear her crying. She hugs me close as she bundles me into the warmth of the wool and whispers I love you. Sometimes strangers can be very kind.