There was a time in my life where I held my grandmother’s hand as she showed me Washington Square Park. The men doing backflips, the chess players and of course, the dog park.
She would point up at buildings and my eyes would follow. She explained the history of tenements, those windows that stare at brick walls. The cloudy glass spheres buried in the sidewalk so that workers in the basement could receive light. These nowhere windows and these tiny underground cut-outs would have gone unnoticed, unremarked. She was full of this light these structures so desperately craved. She used to be so illuminating.
In my youngest years, in so many ways, she was New York and New York was her. The two were so synonymous that my tiny brain couldn’t separate them. It was not the city without her and I felt as though the city imbued her with so much character. Loud speech, quick steps, witty remarks and a street sense that must have taken years and years to cultivate.
Now is the time in my life where she holds my hand. We walk slowly to a small, quaint Italian restaurant at the end of the block with her arm wrapped around the crook of mine. He back has been hurting, we take it slowly. And in that very moment we pause, in an instant, New York seems to fly past us. Hurried pedestrians overtake us, she tries to tell me something about the theater nearby and her voice is drowned out by sirens. Somehow she is no longer in command.
Grandma’s back has kept her working from home. Grandpa’s cancer is localized but it’s back. And most suddenly of all, as I learned from terse texts from my mother during what was probably an incredibly stressful day for her, her father had a bleed in his brain and needs her.
As a twentyteen, you yourself do not feel like you’re nearing death, but you are more attuned to the fact that those around you are. It feels raw and real and I don’t know if I’m ready. Guess I’ll have to see.