She is sitting in her rocking chair, in the corner of her room.

Are you ready? I ask her

She looks up at me, beneath heavy lids, and nods her head.

I walk towards her, help her up, hand her her cane.

She wants to walk hand in hand down the hallway, and so we do

Pick up your feet, I remind her.  Don’t shuffle.

We walk into the bathroom and I turn on the water.

I help her undress, unbutton her shirt stained from lunch, ask her if she is okay.

I am okay, she says.

I guide her into the shower, onto her chair

and after making sure it’s not too hot

I let the water run

through my fingers

down her shoulders

and I begin to wash

this woman

and what is left of her.

I marvel at how soft her skin is

though it no longer fits her body

the way it should, the way it did

I wash her grey hair, and imagine the long braids she wore as a young girl

I wash her arms and shoulders, and imagine the strength they once posessed

I wash her hands and imagine all they have held, all they have created, all they have let go

I wash her breasts, her stomach, and imagine her pregnant with my mother, my aunt, my uncle

I imagine her nursing her babies, her young body able to do what God had intended

I wash her legs, and imagine the thousands of miles they have walked

from Poland to Germany during the war,  as she fled from bloodshed and towards a chance at survival

then back home again,

her feet stepping over the dead bodies of fellow countrymen

as she made her way back towards the shattered remnants of her life

I imagine her walking down the aisle as she married my grandfather, a young bride, her heart full of hope

Then imagine what she must have felt, as she walked next to him and accompanied his casket to the cemetery

I imagine her stepping out of the airplane, her first flight, and walking onto American soil for the first time

and I briefly close my eyes as I remember when she used to walk me to ballet class, I in my pink tutu, she in her apron,

which she never took off

I wash her

and I worship her

and I try to honor her as I gently rinse the soap from her skin

She tells me I give the best showers

that with me she feels safe



I marvel at who she once was

mourn who she will never be

and in this tiny cramped shower

I feel life and death colliding

and I have to catch my breath


She looks up at me as I turn off the water

and cracks an inappropriate joke

as I dry her fragile body

dress her

caress her

bury myself in her softness

as I kiss her neck


She wants to walk hand in hand

back to her bedroom

Slow down, I tell her

though we are both walking

a little taller

a little faster

a little stronger


as we make our way down the hallway


the past the present the future

hand in hand



Spread the love

7 Replies to “A Granddaughter’s Privilege”

  1. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. You brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my ailing Grandmother, who is more like a Mother to me.

  2. That is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. You took me back to my Grandmother who is gone now and made me miss her all over again with a new heightened sense of awe.
    Thank you for sharing your love. Enjoy every day you have left with her.

    My Blog –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.