On Beauty (Discovering 8/14/09)




            Beauty survives, no matter what.

            My grandmother has Alzheimer’s.  This evening, she didn’t recognize anyone but me, and then, five minutes after she knew me completely and totally, she was looking at me as if I were a stranger.  She was studying me and she wouldn’t admit it, but she had forgotten who I was, too.  She didn’t remember anything.  

           At one point she asked her age.  My aunt, Sis, told her she was eighty-two. 

           “What month was I born?” 

            “March, honey,” Sis said. 

            “Yeah, I was.  It was March,”  Mamaw laughed.  She closed her eyes and laughed like music, like a tinking piano.  “They used to call me Windy Wanda, because I was born in March and I never hushed talking.”

            “Yeah, they did,” Sis said.  “I had plumb forgot that.” 

            Mamaw was lying in bed with the covers pulled up to her neck even though the pulsating heat of a late evening in August breathed against the windows. (Not long ago she would have been hoeing her garden this time of evening, even before the cool settled over the valley.)  Her hair—so white it begs to be touched—was spread out all around her head.  She looked like a queen. 

            Her eyes:  small, brown.  Her strong little Irish nose.  The Cherokee cheekbones that belonged to her mother.  Her hands: liver-spotted, long-fingered, still strong. All these things beautiful, but the real beauty was all over her, a light. 

            It wasn’t in her eyes or nose or cheekbones or shiny white hair.  Her beauty washed out from her because she had been good to others, had worked like a dog every day of her life, because she had raised not only her own children but had taken in at least three others and treated them as her own, giving them equal amounts of money and adoration.  She had once arisen at daylight, cooked a full breakfast, gathered eggs from her hens, canned thirty-two quarts of kraut in one day, loved and loved and loved.  And she had been beautiful.  She always will be.  


Sandra Eileen Jewelry said…
A beautiful piece about a beautiful woman.
Amy Clark said…
You could have been writing about my own Mamaw, Silas. Beautiful words, these.
LibraryGirl62 said…
My Eastern KY Granma is 89. I feel the same way about her as you do your Mamaw. My Grandpa passed from Alzheimer's about 5 years ago. I understand...
Funny thing...I have always called my Grandma Grandma, but she always signs cards and letters Mamaw :)
kygirl38 said…
My granny was like yours. Salt of the earth. Never ran out of love or patience for anyone. She was always a constant in my life, even when my parent weren't. She also had Alzheimer's. After a trial of a new drug a year or so before her death, I had come home from college to see her at the nursing home. Brought her a vanilla malt from the dairy freeze she loved. She hadn't known me in over a year, but I didn't care. I knew and love her and that was all that mattered. On this day, she called me by name and said, "Kim Dawn, where have you been? I've been waiting all day for you to come to me." I dropped the malt and cried for joy. It was the last day she spoke my name. We visited like she had never lost her memory. It is the day I choose to remember, not all the ones that came after. Thank you for this entry and sparking that wonderful memory again for me.
Glenda said…
Such a beautiful post about a beautiful woman and written with love.

Popular posts from this blog

The Matter Is You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About

The Flood, Then and Now

Songs of Summer 2017