We went on a Saturday, when the summer was in full bloom and life was good. My in-laws came along with their over-sized pick-up truck to help us move furniture. The air was heavy and we watched the clouds, hoping it wouldn’t rain.
We pulled into the parking lot of my Grandma’s apartment building and the old, familiar place seemed more vivid, as though I was seeing it for the first time. Instead, I knew it would be the last time. At over 90 years old my Grandma could no longer live alone; we had to move her to a nursing home.
I took in the details of the once-new but now slightly worn building as we walked down the hall to her apartment: the pink and peach wallpaper curling up at the edges, the hard carpet that my feet had crossed so many times, the landscapes in gilded frames hung on the walls to add a sense of luxury.
When we reached her door I took a deep breath and knocked. My parents were already there, helping her sort through her things. They called us in and greeted us briefly before going back to work. I gave my Grandma a hug and tried not to cry. She would have hated that.
We spent some time making small talk but she didn’t seem up for it. So I walked through the place, picking out what I wanted to take. The armoire, a coffee table, a chair, some art, some dishes and some beautiful lace napkins. My Grandma didn’t need these anymore. She only took the essentials: her bed, a good chair, a few everyday dishes, her knitting and some books. Her apartment was full of art and family photos, but she didn’t want to take any of it to the nursing home. I suppose she thought she wouldn’t be there long. What was the point?
We pillaged through her things, picking out what was best, leaving behind what wasn’t good enough. The auction-house would come pick up the leftovers. We took the silver and china and crystal, but we left the dishes that my Grandma had used to feed my father and his sister, the dishes that had been a part of her life day in and day out. Those went to a stranger. Those were too simple, too pedestrian.
Every now and then I glanced at her. Her face – always collected, always proper – wore an expression of bafflement and surprise. She looked dazed. I wondered what she was thinking and feeling. But I couldn’t think of it too much without risking the tears coming up. So I took the lessons I had learned and I held back my feelings. I kept myself reserved, so that everyone would be comfortable.
We said goodbye and promised to visit soon in the nursing home. We loaded up the furniture in the back of the pick-up and the other items in our trunk. We drove away and managed to make it home before the rain.