Words By Amanda Pica, Art By Hailey Renee
“Hi, Grandma. It’s Zach, actually. Maya’s son.”
Her brow crinkled under permed white hair, thin enough to show her scalp. Zach crouched in front of the E-Z-Lift chair, so he didn’t tower over her. She shifted, something akin to embarrassment trailing across her features. She patted his arm with papery fingers.
“Oh yes, son. Good to see you.”
Her lucidity seemed as fickle as his hope and the sterile words stung. Zach stood and tugged at the hem of his t-shirt, then cleared his throat to chase away the emotion.
“I have a surprise before we get back to the puzzle we’ve been doing.”
He slid his cellphone out of his pocket and swiped to the playlist he’d made. Despite her failing memory, tech remained her anathema. The last thing he wanted was to upset her, but the article he’d read on music and dementia had been tough to shake. Zach slid the phone nonchalantly onto the table behind some tissues as the beginning strains of Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” began.
She swayed for a few bars.
“This song! William, do you remember?”
“It’s—” Zach stopped. The music made him a little boy again, eating cookies at her kitchen table. Maybe it made her what she needed to be, too.
“Those roses must have cost you half a week’s salary, but you’d said I was worth every penny.” Tears glistened over her milky cataracts. “Dance with me?”
Zach helped her to her feet, and she leaned against him, small and wobbly. Time had reversed their positions. Now she wore no apron, his hands had no sticky cookie crumbs, but Glenn Miller stayed true. Her feet shuffled the same motions she’d taught him on the thick shag carpet of her living room. Zach closed his eyes and could almost smell the thick, warm scent of baked bread that used to hang in her house every Sunday.
When the song transitioned into “Tuxedo Junction,” she hugged him tight, bringing him back to the hard industrial tile and antiseptic tang of bleach.
She patted his arm. “I need to sit. My old bones aren’t made for dancing anymore.”
He hung onto her as she lowered herself down.
“Sometimes I can’t remember why I’m here. I’ll think I’m supposed to pick Maya up from school, but then my hands look wrong, and I have to fight through dusty stacks of memories to find one that’ll anchor me. Funny how my mind drifts away all the time, but my body just knows things. Like that music. I think maybe the dancing brought me back here. Just in time for their over-salted roast beef.”
Zach laughed at her unexpected joke. “Good to have you back, Grandma.”
“I’m sorry for when I don’t remember you, Zach. Please know I love you and your visits. Just like you used to love my cookies. Remember those?”
Zach wiped his eyes. “I’ve never had a better one.”