When my granddaughter is peaceful, I can sometimes see words making their shapes behind her face. Her eyes dart here and there, and they stop. Words spill past her ruby lips. “…that other fruit, the one that’s not an orange… pomegranate… like my party dress…”
I try to coast along on her reverie.
Penny is seven. She’s figured out that I exist when she’s not around. I come and go. I will go; she knows this too.
“Grandma, you are going to die because you’re old.” I am on my way up the stairs and Penny hurls this thought at me across the railing. Then she hesitates and adds less brightly, “If you eat healthy and do your exercise, you won’t die so fast.”
At seventy-two I am one year older than my mother when she died. I think of this most days as my life rushes by, a job, a husband, and self-imposed obligations. Hours are whizzing by, and I can’t unspeed the clock.
When we play “Just Spit It Out!” and Penny gets to go first being the youngest and is asked to name two breakfast foods served at Wendy’s, Penny pulls her shoulders up, tight up to her neck. Her eyes open big, and she lifts herself high on her tippy toes. “Eggs and bananas!” She laughs and runs into the kitchen.
In a tub full of rubber ducks Penny lets me wash her thick hair that is almost black and rinse it many times, as long as I hand her the slip-on terrycloth mitt to squeeze against her eyes. My own hair is thinning; the color is quickly fading. Who will wash my thinning hair?
Will I be trusting?
Penny has become a little sharp. I can no longer bite her arms in jest. Turns her head with a frown; she lets me know. She will show me her painting when she is ready. She is the youngest of two, pushed by a now-bossy sister.
I pay attention.
This is what I do.