I compared my grandmother to an Oreo
in a fifth grade poem. “So sweet,”
I wrote, “and soft inside.” I loved Oreos far more
than any other type of cookie. I could eat them
until I got so full I could barely
breathe. Until I was sick.
Now, I have to limit my sugar intake,
push insulin through a needle into
my body. Grandma
is still sweet, but soft
in the head. She announces to my family,
“Grandpa needs a new girlfriend, because
I don’t give him any loving!”
Auntie Jean says, “Ma, grandpa is too old
for loving!” Grandpa laughs.
All summer long, I’ve watched
grandma sleep. I’ve fed her popsicles
and broken off pieces of mochi. She can barely
open her eyes anymore. She tells grandpa
to throw her out into the street
like garbage, like a leftover candy wrapper.
Grandpa continues watching
his samurai show on TV.
My grandmother’s body is like a large
factory in which the rooms
have started to shut down. I listen
to the grinding of her teeth,
imagine the insulin produced
by her pancreas, spreading. “Enough,”
she says, pushing my hand away.
I’ve heard that women
who wash themselves in milk
have extremely soft skin. Grandma’s
skin is incredible. At 3:30 p.m.,
grandpa takes her
into their bathtub. He runs
his hands over her useless legs
as she leans into him, quieted
by his quick work.
Sometimes, she can’t recognize
him. “That’s grandpa,” we say,
“He’s your husband.” Grandma disagrees.
“No, it just looks like him.”
Grandpa moves closer to her, holds
her face in his hands like a bowl,
says, “Harriet, I am your caregiver.”
Once, when she could
still walk, she ran away from him
and he had to chase her on his bad knees
through the kitchen, down the street,
Harriet!” He describes her
as his full-time job.
Every day they sit together.
He feeds her chicken
and rice. I am just beginning
to discover love,
and I think that this is it. Two people
feeding each other,
even when one person
cannot do anything but eat.