My Nanny Ruth

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Thinking back on that moment, I can really only recall her not being there.  Not like she was taken away, but more like she never was.  It was in the air, for lack of better word, a distinct lack of her.


What was she?  To me, she was wrinkled skin, soft like only old skin can be.  She was her strangely perfect teeth, so out of place with the rest of her.   A funny smell, whiskers and kisses on my cheeks that seemed to mean abolutely everything to her, and I couldn't imagine why.  Her furniture was old with hard wooden edges, difficult to run around.  Her name made her unique, a one-of-a-kind to me, my Nanny Ruth, of legend, known amongst all the cousins, the matriarch of our clan, the greatest of us all, longest surviving member of her generation.


I was just a kid, not even a person yet, a mind much simpler and less cluttered than I have today.  I was the youngest of all the cousins, with the fewest memories and the least scars. I can only imagine her standing, because I saw it in a picture once. I was told she would whip, but I never saw her with a switch.


When it happened, I kept quiet.  Its what I did.  Mom and the others seemed so sad.  I didn't know what to do.  I had only seen it happen once before, my dad, who I never know.  To tell you the truth, I was curious more than anything else.  Its the first time I can remember really wanting to see her.  I wanted to know things, not sure what though.   


Too young, we were never really allowed in the room, any of the rooms. So, I waited quietly.   A few days passed, then Mom dressed us up and took us into a strange room, full of strange people, who all knew my name.  The kind of place where I would get lost in all those legs. I would usually run and hide under just about anything, donw low, where they couldn't reach. It felt like I was nesting, far away.  Not today though. I immediately saw it, tugged on my mother's arm, and stood tall, to be recognized.  I knew what it was.  Nanny was in there, in her casket, and I wanted to see.


They lifted me up, for a kiss goodbye, they said, but no, not me.  That's not what I wanted.  I just had to see. There was something I needed to know.  It was her skin first. It made me pause.  It was different - different in every possible way.  Her hands.  I could tell they would not move.  I moved closer, belly crawling over the edge, strecthing my neck. Her face was made up, but it seemed all wrong, like they'd done a bad job.  It was her and it wasn't.  An "it" they painted in her likeness.  No more flesh than a tombstone to me


Then I saw her eyes.  One seemed to be open, only a little.  But - and I can't be sure - I think they'd taken away her eyes.  It amazed me.  Why would they do that?  I guess she didn't need them, it dawned on me.  Then, all of the sudden, there was no end to my questions, and I couldn't be. shut up.   All of them were about Nanny's eyes.


"They gave them away to science," my mother finally said.  


"Like a transplant?"


"Yes," and she sighed, so tired, at her limit. I could tell.  I stopped asking questions.


They gave me Nanny's old paint set and an easel, with some dried up brushes and pencils. It was so important to my Aunt's that I have them.  I could draw, they said, but they were just doodles to me.  "You get that from her," they said.  I wondered how she gave me doodles.   Those old paints, crusty metal tubes, scraps of wood and sharp crusty brissels.  Its strange.  I could make a deathray out of random stick, but all these things of the great Nanny felt trully dead to me. Their life spent a long time ago, and all thats left are these peices.  They'd rot away and become the trees, if life was how its supposed to be.  but no, trash tends to stick around, always there, under the surface, mingling with the dust.  

Created: Apr 02, 2014

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