One of the features of Free Friday will be guest blogs from time to time. Today blog is by Jessica R. Patch. For more of Jessica’s posts, click her name in the Blogroll on this page.
A Memorable Moment with Jessica R. Patch
My Grandmother, the Talebearer
I climbed the steep concrete steps.
I rang the doorbell, my favorite thing to do because it turned like a chime, not a buzzer. I itched to get inside the house, to see my favorite person on earth. To bang on the keys of a piano that had long been out of tune, to smell bacon frying any time of the day—not just breakfast. To play with the slew of dirty green rubber bands that lined the rocking chair’s arm and wonder, “Why are these here?” and most of all to hear my great grandmother tell me tales.
I think my first love of stories came from listening to her. I’d sit at her feet while she braided my hair, closing my eyes as her long nails lulled me. Her voice would hypnotize me. Whether they were true stories of when she was a little girl living on the farm, or when an old hoot owl grabbed her hair as she rode in the horse and buggy to church, or fictional stories, I loved them. Lived for them.
My favorite one was about a little girl who was left alone to watch her baby brother. The house was invaded by enemies and Nancy hid her and her brother in the Grandfather clock. Nancy and the Grandfather Clock. That was the name. I loved it. I loved how Grandma’s voice took on each character’s voice. She had perfect timing, pausing when necessary, picking up pace in her voice to increase the suspense, and gently ending the tale with a whisper.
Grandma started forgetting things. Small things at first—where her purse was, that she had left the teakettle on, where she laid her glasses. And then bigger things. Like who I was. How I got to her house. Why I was there.
The year before I married, I went to see her in the nursing home. Her bun I was accustomed to, fell in a long braid down her back. Her body was gaunt; spittle crusted to the sides her mouth. A pang in my heart told me this would be the last time I would ever see her this side of heaven. I barely recognized her.
She did not recognize me.
I hollered into her ear, because she could barely hear nearing an entire century in age. “Grandma, it’s me, Jessica. Do you remember?” I coaxed her with memories, begging inside for her to know me.
“Who?” she asked, agitation and frustration in her shaky voice.
I gave up trying to make her remember. “Would you like me to read you some of the Bible?” She loved the Bible.
“Oh yes, I haven’t been to church since that old hoot owl grabbed my hair. Daddy got him off. Have you seen Daddy?”
My eyes glistened. “No,” I choked. “Not today.”
“What’d you say your name was?”
“My husband’s name is Jesse.” She smiled, her gold tooth shimmered. “He’s a good man. A schoolteacher. Maybe you know him?”
I had never met my namesake. He died before I was born. “Maybe,” I said before I began to read through the Psalms. After a few chapters, she squeezed my hand and her milky blue eyes cleared.
“Why, Jessica, when did you get here?”
“Just now, Grandma. Just now.”
“Have you had something to eat? I can make something.”
“No. I’m fine, Grandma.”
She shifted in the bed and winced. Bedsores and a broke down body. “How about a story?”
Could she remember them? “If you feel up to it, I’d love to hear one.” Any one. Anything. Just to know she remembered me for even a second was a treasure. I held back tears the best I could, a burning lump lodged in my throat.
“Once there was a little girl named Nancy…”