I’m sitting on the floor at Grandma’s knee. I’m leaving tomorrow.
“I’m leaving tomorrow, Grandma,” I say, and lean towards her.
“You’re leaving? Tomorrow?” Her soft, gentle face first opens in surprise, then opens further in recognizing her granddaughter’s face. Then, her grey eyebrows slowly push up into her brow in a question that blossoms up from inside her blue eyes.
Her blue eyes are so blue, so watery, and in this moment, so clear. They are red around the edges, where her skin is dry, and some of her eyelashes stick together with dried up eyedrop stuff. Her eyes don’t leave mine as I rise up on my knees, bringing my face closer to hers, and my hands reach for hers, warm in her lap. Metal clips hold back her wiry grey hair, almost girlishly winging out over her ears. She smiles as my face fills her frame but then her gentle frown returns, slowly recognizing that I am saying goodbye to her.
“I don’t want you to go,” she says impishly, her blue eyes still tracking mine. Maybe my brow is as knit together as hers, and she is mirroring me. Maybe I’m mirroring her. Maybe my grandmother has always been my mirror, a woman I’ve wanted to be; strong, outspoken, smart, sharp tongued, good humored, socially smooth without being a phony. Maybe I’ve always wanted to be a mirror for my grandmother and achieve what she couldn’t; put my writing before having a family, travel the world, put art and music before home and garden.
“Don’t go,” she jokes, the smile slowly seeping from her eyes, raising the little hills and valleys in her face where her cheekbones live under delicate soft skin. She chuckles to herself, to me, through our secret mirror.
“Oh, I have to, Grandma. My flight leaves tomorrow. But I’ll be back.”
“When?” She’s 97 and often takes her time, more and more of it as she has less and less of it to spend, but in asking this question she wastes no time. Now it’s my turn to chuckle.
“Maybe for Mother’s Day. But definitely for Thanksgiving.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful,” she says, blue watery eyes crinkling as she sinks back in satisfaction. But still she holds her eyes to mine.
“I love you, Grandma. It’s been so nice having all this time to visit with you.” The carpet of her assisted living apartment room floor is pushing into my kneecaps and my lower back is trembling from leaning in so close to my Grandmother’s beautiful face. I would stay like this forever if I could, attached to the woman who gave life to the woman who gave life to me, looking into her watery eyes and feeling like a little girl again, a little girl at her grandmother’s knee.
“I love you, Sarah,” she enunciates slowly, seriously. “I want you to be happy. Just be happy.”
I squeeze her little hand, the collection of little bones wrapped up in her soft dry skin, knuckles and joints moving to close around mine. My back is on fire as I lean closer to kiss her cheek. I linger there as she slowly turns to kiss mine.
Sarah Elovich is a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA.