She’s forgotten what it’s like to hold a pencil in her hand, and I can’t blame her. There are memories I’ve dismembered, their limbs strong as my will to forget. We carry on in the only ways we know how.
Two feet or one in front of the other, the plan is to keep moving. Collect breaths, sporadically as we find them. Under unturned stones, beneath the keys of typewriters untouched. Keep moving.
My mother says she can’t remember the smell of oranges. My father ate citrus with every breakfast. 21,917 grapefruits; she counted.
Daily constitutions change. Once, she wrote him letters every afternoon and washed the ink off her hands in the evenings. Now she takes her skin to the dry cleaner, presses time into the wrinkles of her breast pocket, bakes stories untold into casseroles every time she touches the stove.
Grandma burns the flag, sets fire to everything but the dark. The closets are where she stores her freedom, the socks she knit Grandpa during the war. She postmarks her nightmares 1944 and leaves the bedroom window open in case word comes from the trees. Their hands were pencils once, she says. Grandma’s old now.
Mother says insanity is all a matter of perspective, memory a matter of how blank you like your clean slate.
She says maybe one of these days she’ll write it all down. But she’s forgotten what it’s like to hold a pencil in her hand, and I can’t blame her.
Originally published March 8, 2010