Monday, May 10, 2010


Nana’s name is Mary, like Hail Mary, full of grace. Nana’s name is Mary, like Holy Mary, mother of God. Nana is in a nursing home. An ugly scary nursing home. They serve roast beef with lettuce and slimy orange stuff on the side. Nana has been old and unhappy for as long as I can remember.

Nana is old like yellow newspapers, like stained clothes. Nana is always in pain. She complains about her eyes, her ears, her hips. Nana finally got a hearing aid and now she doesn’t yell “HUH?” as much as she used to. Nana knows me. She never forgets me. She remembers what I told her on the last visit and the visit before that. She’s been telling me on every visit for the last 20 years that she will be dead by the next time I visit. But she never dies. She just gets older and older. Like old churches. Like cheese.

Nana says “Don’t get old, Gabe. Don’t get old.” Nana says, “Don’t get old, Gabe. Don’t get old.” She’s outlived nearly everyone she knows – her parents, her husband, three sisters, a daughter, a granddaughter.

Nana is old like the rocks jetting out into the ocean, life crashing against them for years, wearing away a little bit of rock at a time, but never taking the whole thing.

Nana used to go to novenas with her sisters. She used to go to novena all the time and pray for 9 days or more. I don’t know what she was praying for. She never told me.

Nana is old like the period at the end of the sentence of my life. Is that what I will become? Is nana me in the future?

Nana has a great laugh. Her laugh makes me laugh. Nana keeps her room very clean and she likes pink towels.

Nana has pictures on the bookcase, the TV, the refrigerator. Pictures of me, Lee, mom, Carli and others.

Nana doesn’t tell stories about the past like other grandmothers. She just says, “I miss your mom. I miss your mom” with tears in her eyes.

Nana watches lots of TV, mostly game shows. She sits with her friends in the lobby of the nursing home gossiping a little, complaining a little, laughing a little.
All the ladies eat the meatloaf and the lettuce and the slimy orange stuff.

Nana has pictures of Jesus, the crucifix and rosary beads in her room. I know Nana prays but I don’t know what she prays for.

I think Nana is 88. I don’t remember. I lost track. All the years above me seem to blend together. I can’t much tell 50 from 60 from 70 from 80. It’s all a mirage of the future. My future self. My future life.

My past is much more distinct, like crispy crackers, like brail. I can read every line of each year. Remember each feeling and touch the texture. The past is like sandpaper, the future like steam.

Some say you can create your future. Is that true? Did Nana create nursing home, novenas, no siblings, no significant other? If she knew, if she chose it, why does she say: “Don’t get old, Gabe. Don’t get old.”

Nana’s name is Mary like Hail Mary, full of grace. Nana’s name is Mary like Holy Mary, Mother of God.

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