Friday, October 21, 2011

Stroke of Color

I have not yet had a chance to visit my sweet grandmother, MuMama, who had a stroke on Tuesday. The following sketch is imaginary, based on descriptions from my father and my daughter OG, who are there and have had a chance to visit with her these last days. We're not sure how she is, really, or how she will be, yet, and we certainly have no idea what the remainder of her time on this earth will look like. She is in her 90's. She is so precious to me.

I wrote this character sketch as a sample for the students in my Creative Writing class.

The old woman just lies there. Her head is turned in the direction of the window, so a careless observer might assume that she is looking out of it, at the trees and sky beyond, but I know better. I know that she is just staring at the air in the direction that is now most comfortable for her damaged body. Her head is resting funny—wrong, really—like the flopped-over face of a rag doll tossed thoughtlessly on the bed.

Dejected. Lonely. Confused. These are never words I would have thought could be used to describe my grandmother, who has always been vivacious and infectiously joyful. Happy. Laughing, usually. But not now. Now that the stroke has ravaged her body, her face hangs limply, eyes staring out from a face that contorts awkwardly if she tries to smile. Her once free-flowing speech, now slurred and difficult to understand, has almost entirely ceased. The words are difficult to find, like some long-lost memory of a name, so close on the edge of the mind, but never quite accessible.

Her face looks old. Before that morning—the fateful morning that both left her with us and took her from us—the lines and wrinkles were barely noticeable, swallowed up in her bright smile, closely enfolding the eyes twinkling from within the folds of that blanket of flesh. Now that same blanket of creased flesh surrounds those same eyes, but the sparkle in the eyes is gone. Blankly they stare, in the direction of some barely remembered dream that she can’t quite find again.

I know that if I speak to her, move into her field of vision and address her by her sweet, sweet name, she will rally. She will push through the fog and swim through the sludge to find me. Those eyes will brighten again, and the blanket of flesh will lift, beautifying the face that the stroke has tried to ravage. I will be reminded once more that Death has no sting.

“MuMama,” I barely whisper past the lump in my throat. I find my voice and try again. “MuMama! Hello!”

With great effort, she turns her head my way, and the light returns to the angelic face. I think that, really, it has never been so beautiful as it is in this moment…this moment of pure joy upon hearing my voice. With great force of will, I anchor my trembling chin and shore up the eyes that threaten to burst the dam, and I reach out for her fragile hand. She has been given another day of life, to live in praise and submission to the One who grants her every breath, and who has chosen, in the mystery of His sovereign wisdom, to have this day be lived like this. And He has chosen to let me be here to share it.

“Hey, Sugar!” Her familiar voice reaches my ears, and I smile.