Sunday, May 30, 2010
Notes from Nana
I packed up my mother's room at her assisted living home today. I'd gone through her own room here some time ago, but the things today were the stuff of immediacy, in which she was breathing only a few days ago.
Three things in particular caught my attention today...
First, a birthday card, written a few months ago but which never made its way to me through her forgetful states. But the sentiment had unusual clarity: "To my beautiful dreamer daughter, always wise beyond your years, who worries me one day and inspires me the next. It's never been ordinary; it's always been wonderful, and today and always you are loved."
Second, a notation written on the back of a photograph of Danika. Danika herself has written a lovely tribute on her Nana's passing, and Nana's spidery hand recounts some of the same memories: "I babysat her from birth until about 7 years old. We went out for breakfast on Sunday mornings and Danika always had french toast. We raised a backporch garden, popped snapdragons, played with Baby, and more. I made her lots of cute costumes and outfits. I love her dearly!"
Lastly, a tablet full of assorted notes and scribbles, typical of my mother as her sense of what was important to write down declined along with her ability to remember it. Among pages of facts, non-facts, and random undiscernables, one began in emphatic capitals: "MY potato salad recipe!"
I know exactly what began the fit of pique over this page. Several weeks ago there was a dinner-table debate among the home's ladies - none of the ladies being in full command of their faculties but in abundant command of their opinions, the "correct" way to make potato salad was hotly argued, and Nana evidently decided later to take out her frustration on the ubiquitous yellow legal pad always at her side, to win her argument in writing where none could dispute it.
(However, I have to say: Demented or not, Nana was also totally right on this one. No one has ever made a better potato salad.)
The recipe began with the potatoes and other constituents one would reasonably expect - I didn't even read that part, as the secret of Nana's was in the delicious dressing. And just at the point in the recipe where that alchemy occurs, both the ink in the pen, and her capacity to notice, ran out. Evident scratching continues deliberately down the page, losing to the ages what could be the most important five lines in human history.
I am consoling myself with two things: (a) my brother Kelly probably knows how to make this potato salad or even a better one, and (2) it's more likely that she had lapsed onto another topic entirely by the time she got to the dressing. Oh that Nana.
And a PS: One of my favorite instances of Nana's compulsive writing-on-everything (and I mean everything) has resided in my desk drawer for several years. This container holds a razor scraper and blades. As you can see. But just in case the transparent box isn't enough of a warning: