I JUST FELT LIKE IT
I call myself Eurydice in my band The Hummers but my real name is Anna (gag).
My dad is making me come along to see Grandma or else he won’t give me any money. I hate hospitals. I hate “nursing homes”. I hate having to live with my dad.
Things were fine when I was living with Jessabella and Chelsea, even if they kept calling me Spooge-Lips because of the white lipstick I wore onstage. But then Jessabella got a D.U.I. and Chelsea lost her job. Now I have no band and no place that I can afford to live except back with my dad (gag).
Now we are going to see Grandma in the Adios Hotel (no, that’s not really the name of the place). He says it’s important.
“Here we are, Anna. Shalom Bayit Nursing Home.”
“Why do I have to be here, again? Grandma doesn’t even recognize me, Dad.”
“I don’t even recognize you with that hair and all those jigaboo rings in your face!”
“Jigaboo? Really, Dad? What are you, like, a hundred years old?”
“No, smart ass, but Grandma will be one hundred years old in three days! Three days! Do you realize what an accomplishment that is?”
“Accomplishment? Whoa! I didn’t realize that getting old was an Olympic event.”
“Yes, smart ass, yes it is, or should be, or… oh, shut-up.”
We parked and Dad went around to the trunk, “Come here. Help me,” he said. What did he want me to do now?
He was folding a pink envelope into his shirt pocket and then he lifted out of the trunk a fair-sized framed picture. It looked kind of amateur. The colors were done right I had to admit. It was a painting of some old time family in a wagon being pulled by a white horse. There was a dog and a cat, or a rat, or a puppy, I couldn’t tell.
And I couldn’t care.
“What is this for?” I looked to heaven.
“What is this for? I’ll tell you what this is for, young lady (or whatever you are supposed to be)…”
“Wa-aah!” he mocked, “Your Grandma painted this herself when she was about your age! I found it while I was preparing for the estate sale. She had it in a special place. Along with this letter.” He tapped the pink envelope in his shirt pocket.
“You are going to find out, so listen up, Uranus.” I saw him grinning at his stupid joke.
“Whatever. Now help me carry this to her room, my dear sweet Anna!”
My face puckered up involuntarily. My dad laughed and pointed at me. I knew it was the face I used to make when I was a kid. “There she is!” He said. He knew I hated it when he tried that “Daddy’s Little Girl” shit on me. So pathetic.
I thought Grandma’s room smelled like my biology class in high school. And Grandma looked like that Cabbage Patch Doll that my dad was so excited about getting me (and then he said I couldn’t play with because he bought it to be an “inheritance for me someday”).
Grandma’s blanket was up tight under her chin. She was sleeping with her mouth open.
My dad kissed her forehead and said softly, “Momma. Momma, it’s me. And Anna is here, too. We’re here to see you. And we have something you will like.”
Grandma opened her eyes. I couldn’t help thinking, “What big eyes you have, Grandma,” but I stayed totally cool. She gave my dad a big childish smile. My dad smiled and said, “Momma, hi. How do you feel, Momma? You look beautiful as always,”
Grandma squirmed under the bed sheets. My dad loosened them and then Grandma raised a pale wrinkled veined yellow arm and held my dad’s face in her hand. She beamed. She started to cry. My dad started to cry. I clenched my teeth.
There was no reason, no reason for me to cry.
“Momma, say ‘hi’ to Anna. You remember your granddaughter, little Anna?”
Grandma turned her head and looked right at me and laughed like a baby. She thought I was funny looking. That hurt, fuck’s sake. “Show her the painting already, Dad.”
“Momma, look at this. Do you remember this painting? You painted it. Remember?”
And then, Oh My God, it was like a spell was broken. Grandma grasped the painting in front of her with both hands. She raised her head and her eyes came alive, like, like, came alive!
Grandma breathed, “Oh, Mother. Papa. Dear Feodor. Little Anya. And sweet Grand Mama. Afanasi, my beautiful horse, Afanasi. Oh, Zhuchka, silly puppy, don’t just stand there under the wagon! Go get your little Druzhok before he is trampled.”
“Momma, is this a painting of your family back in Lithuania?”
Grandma said with great clarity, “I painted this in Paris, after I left home. I painted them as I remembered them. I painted them as if they had come to visit me in Paris. But I never saw them again.”
I had to ask, “Why did you leave home, Grandma?”
“I just felt like it. That is all.”
My dad shook his head and said as he always did about his family, “Hard-headed.”
“There was not artistic freedom anymore,” pronounced Grandma, looking far away in her eyes.
“Yes, yes. Artistic freedom, Momma. You were an artist. That was The Great War? World War One, wasn’t it Momma?” but I knew he was saying that for my ignorant benefit.
I said indignantly, “I know which War it is, Dad. She met Grandpa in Paris. Grandpa was in the Army Artillery. He married her and took her to America.”
Grandma clicked her tongue, “She knows, my son, she knows. Son, you are like my Papa was to me: to him I was just a silly disobedient daughter. So I left.”
Well, I thought, shit me, Grandma. Is somebody in this family actually on my side? Why did you ever stop painting? Because of Grandpa? Because of the Depression? Because of eleven kids?
My dad spoke up, “Momma, no, I don’t think Anna is silly, Momma”
“Oh, Puh-lease, Dad,” I said, almost straining my eyeballs rolling them.
“I don’t! I do not! I know how special you are, my dear sweet Anna. That is why I brought this letter,” and he fumbled the pink envelope in his shirt pocket, “Your Grandma was keeping this in the same special place as this painting. Anna, you wrote this letter to Grandma when you were thirteen years old. You don’t remember. Read it, read it out loud for your Grandma.”
How the Heaven are you? Are you still growing in your own youth? Call this a poem so you won’t be afraid when I speak my own truth. I cried when I lost my cat. I know how I feel about that. How do you feel? You, source of my Dad, I can speak to you. Yours is the love that created this whole generation of words. To you I cannot lie.
The New Country grows dark just like The Old Country. Any drunk can become a Holy Man. To forget is Divine. I cannot forget you.
Do you still play the organ? Do you still draw in charcoal? Do you know how it all happens? It is only the Past that happens. Even God doesn’t know Tomorrow. He planned it that way. What could He say but: You and Me?
I’ve got a way to take the world. I call it Myself. I scratch my clouds of wonderment, breathe the way I feel, and hear the Inner Mystery building Neutron Bombs, telling me that I cannot say less: I love you.
Grandma leaned back on her pillow, breathing in little gasps. The nurse came in and said that visiting hours were over. We both kissed Grandma good-bye. She smiled.
So then I started to care about my dad’s little celebration for Grandma’s 100th birthday in three days.
But two days later Grandma died.
I didn’t need to cry. I just felt like it.
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