I held her hand firmly, it was still warm despite her paper-thin skin and bony fingers. In the palm of my hand I could feel her acrylics gently rubbing, slowly, and with that all I could think of was every visit between 8 and 12 years old. Every saturday morning when her and my grandfather would get up early, pick up coffee, donuts, and occasionally a handful of little trinkets for the three of us to play with, come by for an hour or so to visit before heading out to get her nails and hair done and his fun project of that weekend. People say that your sense of smell is the most powerful of our faculties because it carries such strongly developed linkages to memories and emotions. It seems to me its the other way around perhaps. Powerful memories, experiences that at the time of occurrence carry deeply personal and significant emotional value, are marked by a sensory annotation unique to that experience. As we grow further away from that experience and it becomes an increasingly distant memory, the more likely it is that the sensory annotation becomes the trigger for the memory, rather than the reverse.
Whatever was the catalyst of my recollection, I looked over to her face, much thinner, less expressive and interested in the world and all I could do was try not to break down and bawl. This was not my grandmother. My grandmother was robust, supremely curious and interested in the world, reading detective novels and science fiction, treating us to pay-per-view wrestling.
I glanced at the clock on the wall and leaned over and kissed her forehead.
“Ok Grandma, I’ve got to head out to now. I’ll see you later, I love you.”
“Oh? ok honey. Thank you, I love you too, I always knew you were different, special.”
I got up, walked out the front door and spent five minutes trying to catch my breath and wipe my eyes. The next time I saw her, she had no idea who I was and thought she was her 23-year-old self and back in Brooklyn.