The orange and black house still sits at the end of the street, right where the road meets the curve. It is very tidy and it’s the only place that has ever really felt like home to me. But it is different now. Grandfather is long gone and grandmother occasionally drifts in and out of the here and now. She asks about long lost relatives from rural Mississippi. People like Cousin Jim, Sarah H, Sarah L, and Mamie. I have never met them. In fact, my mother tells me that most of them died decades before I was born. But this is home. And as the youngest granddaughter, I have accepted the responsibility of caring for the aging family matriarch.
I look into the old woman’s eyes at times and though my name is slow to her mind and slower still to her lips, it is evident that her soul knows and loves me deeply. I believe that even when the mind abandons its host, the heart is still robust in its memories of the feelings; like the time when I graduated high school. Certainly grandmother doesn’t recall the day, but her heart remembers the love and pride she felt as I walked the stage. And then there was the time after college when I cried after calling off my wedding, she couldn’t utter a detail of the experience if asked today, but her heart recalls holding me and assuring me that there is a great love awaiting me, like the bond she shared with grandfather. I believe her.
As I carry out the daily tasks surrounding the care of this very wise woman, I feel honored and blessed to be able to assist her in living her best life with what she’s been left with, for she has equipped me with love and wisdom that will carry me throughout this existence.
As for Cousin Sarah L., mom said she moved with the family to Memphis from Mississippi during what is now referred to as the Great Migration; when Black people were moving in masses from rural areas to cities and from the southern U.S. to the liberating north. It seems my mind should remember some part of Cousin Sarah, but instead, it is my heart that remembers the fear of being chased by two dogs and an old woman running to rescue me, lovingly scooping me up into her big, soft arms and rocking me gently and giving me lemon cookies. “That was Cousin Sarah,” mom told me many years later.
A good friend told me once that hope dies last, but I know that love never does.
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