It was hard to turn the earth for your vegetable garden
Your back was sore, but you did it anyway
I never wanted to help.
I played in the shade of the fruit trees
Eating fallen plums and apples
And cracked walnut shells with a hammer
Between pavement blocks.
I loved it when you bounced me on your knees
As you sang in Ukrainian
The song about the horse that goes clop clop.
You made the best pyrohis dumplings -
I would fill my mouth with the potato mixture
While you filled the half-moon pockets of dough.
We knew only a few words in each other’s language
So we talked about the weather.
I often wondered what more we would have talked about
If we could.
The cancer made a patchwork of your skin
And there were hairs from your leg
Growing on your cheek.
You were so excited to see Benny Hinn
Heal all those sick people on TV
You thought if we could take you there
He could cure you too.
Then, as the first threads of your mind came loose
You would offer tea to me
Holding the cup from underneath with both hands
Because you couldn’t feel the heat.
The sharp edge of the knife
Would threaten to draw blood
As you sliced apples into quarters on your open palm.
You left the stove on
And forgot where the toilet was
You needed help to bathe.
At breakfast you would give several orders
For everyone to eat
But forget to feed yourself.
You would thank me for visiting
And ask me how my mother was.
She was well, I would say
But I would never tell you
She was sitting right beside you.
It broke my mother’s heart
When you didn’t know who she was.
She cared for you as long she could
Until she needed to be cared for herself.
When she died you couldn’t be there
We’d already lost you
Not from this world just yet
But to a place without memory,
You would look through me
With vacant eyes
No more my grandma, just a body.
But somewhere within you
I know you remembered me.
And as your body leaves us now
I will find somewhere within me
To remember you.