7.09.2007

Looking forward and back, and so present

I throw the corn cob high into the canopy of Columbo; the memory of our name for this part of our yard always makes me smile. Three American kids growing up surrounded by woods on three sides of our house; we tagged the left hand side Columbo to celebrate the adventure of discovering tiny streams and places for secret forts when it snowed. We no longer play in these woods, but our former pets are buried there and we use a part of it for compost. That's where I am now, shucking the corn Dad bought for dinner. This has always been part of the kids' chores; we would walk back to the house, balancing the pot of corn on our heads, like the images of African women we saw in books or on the TV. Now Katie lives in a village with those women.

My Nana is dying. She's stopped eating, her temperature has dropped. Everything I do, every action I take stands out in stark opposition to her. I am hot, lying on the floor to keep out of the 95 degree heat wave. She is getting colder. I toss a few peanuts into my mouth on my way through the kitchen; she hasn't eaten in six days. I am living, shucking corn, remembering; she is dying, fighting with nurses, not remembering anything or anyone.

Last week I borrowed a documentary, Our Century, from the library. It goes through the decades from 1900 to 2000, exposing the America that existed in the past. Nana lived through most of that, I think, while watching it. The world today is nothing like it was in 1915. I am almost glad for her inability to comprehend the world around her, a result of her Alzheimer's. The America she knew is not the America that lives and grows today.

I debate going down to see her one last time. To say goodbye to someone who has already been gone for years. To add another Nana memory to the reel, a final one. To stand next to someone so close to the unknown, to be hit with the reality that she is going somewhere I can't know. It's a trip I'm not sure I want to take.