one christmas during college i brought my granny and aunt jessie to tears just by doing a certain impression of mine. last saturday afternoon my dad, mom, sisters and i were laughing so hard tears squeezed out of our eyes as my granny flexed… but this was a very different granny.
her body and mind slowly deteriorating with age and disease. gone are the days of craft time and cowboy skits, matching family reunion shirts and christmas eve at the house on the hill. elaborate turquoise jewelry traded in for plastic bead necklaces. dainty hands now twisted with crippled fingers… naked of a wedding ring.
we entered, cautiously. my intentions, not clear.
it’s been more than a decade since i left arizona. i return, sporadically, for birthdays, babies, weddings. each visit, revealing just how far away my grandparents have drifted. another grandfather, already dead. i missed my chance to see him one last time when i was in utah. the drive to mapleton too far, the visit… potentionally awkward. i, instead, shopped for clothes at ross.
this time, if it were my last opportunity to see them, would not be forfeited for cheap clothing.
granny and grandpa were finishing lunch. eyes vacant. bodies still. a flicker of recognition in granny’s eyes, possibly, or maybe it was wishful thinking. but at the sight of dad, an undeniable burst of life shot through her body. baby-like, she reached for him.
our family meeting solemnly moved to the family room. both grandparents transported with help. we sat. uncomfortable. asia began to cry. i, not knowing what to say. dad carried on a one-sided conversation. i felt defeated. i didn’t want this to be my last memory. but one green balloon changed everything.
a simple game transformed us. while unable to even speak to us or recognize us, they were able to hit the balloon. back and forth it went over our heads breathing life into all of us. i left their house that day, grateful, for a single, green balloon.