what we ate when we were with her
I don’t think you understand. My grandmother used to make us pizzas on English muffins, with tomato sauce and melted cheddar cheese. They tasted horrible, but I found comfort in them. Once, my brother and I assaulted her with malt balls. From the dining room, we used spoons to sling shot malt balls at her. She looked up from her paperback romance, over the rim of her glasses, and asked what in the world we were doing. What were we doing? The worst we could do received a “shame on you.” Most nights we had frozen chicken nuggets, which I loved. My mother would come home smelling like chrysanthemums and Grandma would leave in her puffy mauve jacket. She took us to Costco every other week to pick up a deluxe pack of Marlboros for Grandfather. Because in Grandma’s version of Genesis, Eve was a dumb whore. Mornings, Grandma would bring over frosted donut holes and we’d watch the soaps. My brother in his batman pajamas. When my cousin stayed with us, his father gave him a twenty dollar bill for lunch. Which we spent entirely on candy from the corner store called “Sunshine Grocery.”Sour patch kids and malt balls probably. Afterwards, Josh climbed the tallest tree in the backyard and refused to come down. “Shame on you,” my grandmother said, and walked away. She was always forgetting her coffee in the microwave. My mother wondered if she got dressed in the dark. No one is perfect. I don’t think anyone has ever loved us more. My sister with her baby doll dresses. My uneven pigtails and crooked jaw. My cousin, high up in the tree, so still and sad. Years later he stole 8,000 dollars from his father and disappeared. He had red hair the color of some larger crabs. My grandmother moved into the low income apartment buildings across from the Everett jail. She set up a shrine for my dead grandfather on her dresser. It became evident that he was a very good fisherman. I remember our last meal together, on her birthday. We went to the fancy seafood restaurant by the water. Because she wanted to see the water while she ate. But once we were all there, she forgot about the water and sat with her back to the window. This upset my mother. The tiny stroke also upset my mother. And then the aneurism and the larger stroke following the surgery. Josh, who had disappeared, reappeared. Because he knew his father wouldn’t be there. Because it became evident we had lost something we could not get back. We ate dry hamburgers in the hospital cafeteria and my father came straight from his bread route and told that story about the canary, and his own mother. But he embellished it for us all: we all knew the canary that was sucked into the vacuum cleaner did not survive, and that his mother did not build for it a tiny wing cast. This was when my father had the swollen sty on his left eye and the horrible racket of a cough. When the young boy nurse, with the tight scrubs that showed off his boxer briefs, turned her over, my grandmother stopped breathing for over a minute. He thought he had killed her. We all laughed when he left the room, because his eyes were so large. I held Grandma’s hand as she passed. I held my baby brother afterward, when his shoulders shook. I always thought she loved him the most, but doesn’t everybody love him the most? Some people you just want to protect from the world by loving them more. I don’t think anyone can love him more than I love him. Even when my grandmother was dying, she was trying to protect us from the world. Her eye was swollen to the size of a baseball. She had blood on her brain. We were at the county hospital, not quite the top floor. The sun was just about to drop out of the sky, but first it had to hit the city rooftops and windows and cast itself on the white hospital beds around the city. This is just like in Touched by an Angel, almost. “Look,” my grandmother managed to say, “Look how beautiful the sun is as it sets.” And I think the last thing she said, was “Go home.” Afterwards, someone ordered this horrible take out from an Italian restaurant. It was fettuccine and it made my mother sick and it did not bring me any comfort.