Almost two years ago, while I was living hundreds of miles away, my grandmother fell down the stairs.

It was a freakish accident. She had been vaccuuming the entryway in her home and somehow had gotten tangled up in the electrical cord. At least, that’s what I think happened. I don’t believe she remembers the events of that day at all. Ever since then, she hasn’t been the same.

For the past twenty months, my grandmother has lived within the medical system. Moved from hospital ward to hospital ward, she has finally ended up in a “pre-home” care facility - a place where the elderly wait for room to open up at the home they are to spend the rest of their lives in; in other words, waiting for someone to die.

During this time, my grandmother’s home has sat empty. When we were young, we used to run up and down the long rows of beans and snow peas in her garden, and spend long hours playing Candyland in the livingroom as she whipped up strange, Chinese delicacies in the kitchen. Being in my grandmother’s home was an aromatic, sensual experience. The unique scents found in a Chinese grocery almost always conjure up memories of her home.

Because finances are never endless, the hard but pragmatic decision was finally made to sell my grandmother’s home. Caring for someone, even with the relative luxury of federally-supported medicare, is expensive. With none of her children young enough (or interested enough) in moving into the old family home to give it a raison d’être, and no time to invest in renting the place out, this seemed the most logical and financially responsible decision. But it was a difficult one to make.

Helping my mother clean out her mother’s home was a very sad, and at the same time fascinating experience. My grandmother has always had the blood of a packrat in her. Discovering incredibly old items from her kitchen, or from a small, nondescript suitcase stashed away in an upstairs closet seemed simultaneously captivating, and deeply melancholic.

I thought, “Here is grandmother as a child. Here is her diary that she kept when her husband was dying of cancer. Here is her favorite cup, where she drank from every day.”

I walked up the stairs we were never allowed to walk up as children, and saw the bed that my uncle slept on before moving out. I found a suitcase from the 1940’s, filled with old stamps, burnished coins, and photographs of a young, smiling woman. My father found $600 in the ceiling of my grandmother’s basement. Why she put it there is lost in the fog of her memory.

The mysteries and stories that we hide within, which are alluded to in our possessions are what define our lives. I learned more about my grandmother on that day than in my entire life.

ISSN 1499-7894
Recent Posts
Contact Archives Web Love Writing Photos FAQs Home