at her bedside

Ruth lays beside me. Her steady wheeze of breath stops.

My heart stops. Is this it? Will my grandmother pass while I am alone with her? Am I worthy of spending these last few moments with her alone?

When I was a little girl I always felt unworthy to be her grandchild. Not because I was degenerate or because she made me feel degenerate. Rather she had a little saying that she told everyone about how proud she was of her kids. “Not a single cavity in permanent teeth.”

She breaths a graveled breath. I, too, breath again. No death this time.

I always felt a bit of shame because I didn’t have great teeth and I didn’t have great dental hygiene as a kid either. I thought I’d let her down because I had a cavity. I was a serious kid.

Today as I hold her trembling hand, not knowing if she hears me, feels me, knows I am here, I know that this woman didn’t care that I had a cavity. She was just proud of her kids. I remember the way she danced around our house when she came to visit. She made it clean, too. I remember her fried chicken before fried chicken became a food unworthy of our healthy plates.

I remember the day she tried to teach me how to make her german potato salad. A little bit of this, a little bit of that... and a lot of me making a mess. If I told her that today I wouldn’t eat her famous warm salad because I don’t eat bacon, she’d look at me with a shrug saying, “I just don’t understand you people.” I imagine a heaven that involves lots of great food and her potato salad is there. I’ll eat it because pigs don’t fly out of semi-trucks in heaven and bacon isn’t made out of pig there anyway.

These days pass slowly, in a surreal passing of time. I wonder each moment if this will be a moment of mercy. If now she will be given the gift of peace and the end of suffering that she has know too well these past days. I analyze the way I pass my time. Is this what I want to be doing when she passes? Does it matter what I am doing when she passes?

Her breathing pauses longer. Then comes back steadily. This wasn’t the moment either.

A gentleman stops in. His wife is a resident here at the Alzheimer's unit, my grandmother’s home for the past two years. “I hope she does alright. She’s a dandy.”

Losing people you love must seem normal at his age. And somehow it still isn’t right.

It’s time to go to heaven.

When will you take her, Lord? When?

How long will I sing this song?

Will someone bring my dinner? I’m getting hungry and lonely sitting here.

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