A my name is Annie

How does a change in physical appearance affect the inner landscape? This post was prompted by Write on Edge.

Observing an unexpected physical change in my grandmother caused something to shift in my young consciousness.

It was a long drive from my hometown to my grandparents’ house. My sisters and I sat buckled in and three deep across the back seat of a boxy station wagon. Luggage was loaded across the tailgate to fill the space behind us. A small cooler filled with sandwiches and snacks was at our feet. We had no DVD player nor an Iphone to entertain us, but we had plenty of notebooks and pens and library books. We played Madlibs and I Spy. We called out the names of states as we searched for license plates from across the nation, and we sped down the highway past farms and weathered, paint-chipped barns and sleepy big-eyed cows that stood silent beneath the sun. We played the alphabet game over and over as we drove from Virginia to Michigan in the summertime.

A my name is Annie and I like to eat apples, B my name is Bobby and I like to eat berries, C my name is Candy and I like to eat cupcakes….

We quizzed our parents about our location; my dad tossed us a map.

Us: Are we there yet?

Them: Not much longer now.

We stretched our legs at grimy highway rest stops where the summer heat blasted our senses till we climbed back into the car. Finally we rolled into the driveway of my grandparents’ house, dusty and tired, but quickly revived as we recognized our faraway cousins and doting aunts and laughing uncles. We were scooped up in hugs and greetings and everyone cheered as the family became more and more present… grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandbabies – there was sure to be a bunch of us arriving on the scene.

I do not remember my paternal grandmother very well, but I do remember her. She was soft and serious and kind… if I met her today, I think I would describe her as industrious. One has to be, if one has eleven children.

She had these beautiful, gentle eyes.

I remember her offering me a piece of warm bread, or perhaps it was a cookie, as she bustled in the kitchen preparing a meal. Then she told me I could play the piano in the living room. Framed photos stood in black and white on the gleaming upright in the elegant room that felt to me more like a parlor than a space to relax. My feet didn’t touch the pedals, but the notes sang out as I pressed each key in turn.

Months later we visited and I observed that she was no longer robust and round. She was thin. Different. I hugged her, and she hugged me back. She looked around the room smiling as our family spilled into the room, filling it with a disorderly and warm-hearted energy created by a big and loving family.

I remmber that she did not stand up from her chair.

Today, I would have described her appearance as frail, but this woman – a mother and grandmother to so many children – no, she could not have been frail, at least not in spirit. Even at a young age, I recognized that there was great meaning behind her physical appearance.  The transformation in her limbs was profound. She was strong and became weak, we were hopeful and yet she was losing a battle against which she had few weapons.

Again, we traveled the vast distance to arrive in time for her funeral.

In the reflection of the rearview window, I saw tears sparkling in my father’s eyes as he drove us down the highway, but they did not fall. I blinked, looked out the window and back again.

Had I imagined them?

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

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13 thoughts on “A my name is Annie

  1. Casey B says:

    This is a truly beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart with the world. These experiences are the ones which end up etched in the memory, and it is truly a gift to be able to express them as well as you have done here.

    Best wishes,

    Casey

  2. Terise says:

    Oh, thanks for sharing this story. If only my children could share a story about Grandma Padilla. I feel that they truly missed out on a wonderful woman. Heck, so did I! I never met your grandmother.

  3. Yeah!
    The first thing I noticed was “Oh, good! Someone who knows how to use the word “affect” correctlly!”
    And the proper plural possesive punctuation! Huzzah!
    It gets frustrating reading posts where the writer has poor skills, and I hate leaving concrit that is just a typo or spelling/punctuation error.
    I love the phrase “Sleepy, big-eyed cows.”
    I’ve noticed the word “till” used as a synonym for “until,” even in well-edited published works, however if you’re concerned with being technically correct, use the word “until.”
    You did a great job of evoking emotion, however I did wonder whether there was a specific illness involved, or whether she simply suffered the ravages of old age.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • skpadilla says:

      Thank you for the specific feedback! I really appreciate it. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer and it was a relatively short illness. I thought about giving more details, but decided against it – still – good things to think about as I explore this memory. Thanks again.

  4. You did such a great job showing the difference in her appearance from visit to visit, peppered with such loving memories of how she treated you when you were there.

    I liked the sections about the car rides, too, but I would have preferred more about your grandma. Your memories were so sweet, I would have liked more of them.

  5. Carrie says:

    what wonderful memories of your grandmother. I have similar memories of my great grandmother. She was always a strong, capable woman, doing things for herself for a long time. I remember when I was about 12 she went into a more intensive care facility and when she lost her independance she seemed to lose her will to live and was gone shortly after. She had always been a tall woman (5’10) and she shrank to nothingness before she died.

    Lovely piece

  6. Wisper says:

    I like that you did not share much detail about your grandmother’s illness. From the point of view of a child, I don’t know that many children would have understood it beyond what you showed. I also love the descriptiveness in the car ride. That is something I remember as a child taking road trips with my family.

  7. The long car ride took me back. The games, are we there yet. The warm enfolding of family.
    A beautiful piece. Well done.

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