The last six weeks

I found the photo on the floor of her room. It is the last place she lived. She is smiling in the picture but her eyes say something else, something like, I hate having my picture taken. Her lips are closed to hide her missing teeth. I slide the picture into my back pocket.

We take her to my uncle’s dentist and he fits nana for a bridge. The bridge will fill out her face and give her back her smile. She’ll be able to bite into a sandwich, or a cookie.

The dentist calls my uncle and I into his exam room to see his work. He is congenial. He seems to genuinely like the challenge of giving nana a full set of choppers. It will take a few weeks for her to get used to them he tells us, but take a look at her he says as he points to nana’s mouth. Inside her mouth he has set up a preview of nana’s new bridge. At first I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but then he points here and there and I can see where this is headed and I feel grateful that the dentist has taken such pride in my nana’s mouth. She, we have waited six weeks for this day. She had always been vain about her appearance and will be happy to have her smile back, even if only to take a picture.

Nana is quiet on the ride home from the dentist. She was always a quiet person but in these last five years or so, she tends to talk little except to answer questions with short answers like; yes or no. In so many ways she is a shadow of her younger self. A tall and classy lady, she now is slouched over a little in the passenger seat of my car. Instead of a Coach pocketbook in her hands, she carries her few possessions in a paper gift bag and leaves in in the basket attached to her walker. Gone is the Movado watch that adorned her wrist. Now she wears a Timex watch that my uncle bought her.

I keep the conversation going in the car. I still find it satisfying to talk to my nana. There is enough of her still present to give me comfort. I ask her how short I should cut my hair and she says what she always says, that I should keep it long. It looks so good. It’s like a script we have been rehearsing my whole life and even though time and circumstance have worn her down, she still knows her lines.

She asks if I’m hungry. No I tell her. She wants to know what I’m going to do about lunch, as if it is a huge problem that I have yet to ponder. I tell her I’m not really hungry but she persists.

“For your birthday” she says in that way always she talks, using a fragment where others would waste a whole sentence.

“I know where you live “I tell her, we’ll go another day.

My uncle and I had moved her weeks earlier. We packed her things up in New York and moved her to a small assisted living community near to us. It was so novel getting to see nana without the punishing Long Island Expressway in between us. I visited her several times a week and took her for rides in the car to help her get acquainted with her new surroundings. As the weeks passed, she seemed more like her old self. I would find her waiting for me in the lobby when I came to visit.

I dropped her off and escorted her back to her room that day, her teeth firmly in place, her smile waiting to be revealed.

The following day she fell and landed on her head. She was taken to the hospital and never returned.

We, my uncle and are cleaning out her apartment for the last time, pictures, just hung on the wall are taken down. The room does not even have the lingering scent of nana. She had only lived there for six weeks. As we pack boxes with what is left of Nana, my uncle looks lost. I feel a deep longing for the comfort of my nana and then I spot the photo, and think to myself, at least she got her teeth.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *