Remember when I was nine, when I wrote that atrocious four-page story, and you read it and told me it was beautiful?
No, I guess you don’t anymore.
That day I said, “I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.” And now I am. You’d be proud of me. You are proud of me, I know—just some days I wish you remembered why. But it’s okay, Granny. I’ll keep showing you my bylines even if you’re surprised every time. Even if you forget them by tomorrow.
Remember when you used to read to me at sunrise?
No matter how early I got up, you were always out there first, under the moths that crawled around the porch light and the limpiacasa geckoes that hunted them, with your love-aged, leather-bound Bible and your strong, black coffee, the kind Mom calls tinta: dark as ink, bitter as you were sweet. You would read Psalms to me until the sun came up, a hot orange eye behind fluttering palm tree-silhouette lashes. We would listen to the cars on the highway and the chickens, closer, scrabbling in the dirt across the road. I loved you then as I love you now: loved the way your hands held me tight, loved your kisses, always a little too wet. I never wiped them off until you looked away. I’ll remember those kisses long after you forget them.
Remember how you used to walk with me?
In those days we walked everywhere, shuffling up hills and around corners, crunching over broken bottles, sweating under the dry-season sun or drenched in the wet-season rainstorms. We walked forever, no matter how near our destination because you knew everyone—from Maritza, all warm smiles to Fermina, endlessly wandering the streets alone with that mangy mutt. We stopped every block or so, and your old lady friends kissed my cheeks and asked if I was visitando con abuelita. You always introduced me in that clumsy, perfect Spanish that never lost the American accent, and I thought its broad diphthongs and Oregon schwas made it a beautiful language all your own. I was proud to be la nieta de Margarita—proud then as I am now, though you walk only the floor between your bedroom and the living room, though you no longer remember the brown, twinkling eyes and big smiles of the friends you greeted so warmly.
Granny, do you remember the day you came to live with us?
You don’t, I know, but I will remember it forever.
You looked so small and alone—nothing like my plump, cheerful granny—and I cried into my pillow because I thought I’d lost you. I hadn’t—not yet, but I had begun. I lose you a little more every day, with every memory that slips away from you, with every hobby you sacrifice to your shaking hands, with every friend who falls into your shrouded past as you forget yet another name. I lose you a little more each time I realize that those sacred moments of you and me alone in the dawn, of your hands steadying mine at the mouth of the steel-toothed sewing machine, of your coffee-scented hugs and off-tune lullabies—those memories we shared I now share with a phantom in my mind, a granny you will never be again.
And one day, I know, you’ll look at me with that same blank look in your beautiful, smile-folded eyes—that same look you have whenever you hear a name you’ve forgotten—and I’ll think I’ve lost you. But on that day, Granny, when you no longer know me, when even I slip away from you—I’ll love you then, and I’ll love you forever. I’ll love you like the sun rising eternally over that palm tree, like the lingering scent of coffee in your yellow-tiled kitchen, like the wet of your kisses still on my cheek no matter how hard I rub. You can forget my love, Granny, but you can’t lose it.