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  • by Carolyn Lackey

Is or Was?


Now that Meems has entered into the Age of Slumber, not much happens in her day to day world. Her "present tense" has dwindled significantly. At present, she can no longer walk, feed herself, nor speak for herself. She and a human infant are on the same footing. Left to her own, she would not survive more than a few days.

Her "present tense" self was vibrant and busy and chatty. Now, instead of saying "Meems loves to dance," I find myself saying that she once loved dancing. Past tense.

I've been wearing her wedding band for a couple of years now. It had been hidden away in a box since she and my father divorced in the early seventies. Forty years later when I ran across it, the band easily slipped onto my finger and has been there ever since as a sweet reminder of all the good that over time my mother kneaded into my heart and mind. A few days ago as I was pointing out the ring to a friend, I heard myself say, "It was my mother's." I paused before correcting myself, "She's still living, so I guess the correct thing to say is 'it IS my mother's.'" "Was" implies...well, you know..."passed" tense...over...done.

My Grandma Kinzbach was a sedentary soul. She rarely left her house. There was a small grocery store across from her house on East Sabine St in Carthage named Robbie's. If she needed flour for dumplings or lard for biscuits or a six-pack of Seven Up, she would pick up the phone and put in her order. Within minutes, a brown paper sack with her groceries would be delivered to her door. Dr. Holland made house calls regularly to give her painful steroid injections into the knees of her bowed legs. Her family lived in South Texas. (I don't recall her ever mentioning having friends.) She couldn't drive a car. I can't remember a time when she did anything but cook meals for my grandpa and watch her "stories" - All My Children and Days of our Lives. She was a "past tense" person all of my life. I wonder what her "present tense" self did before she married my grandpa. Did she dance? Did she sing? Had she always been melancholy and inactive? These are things that I will never know but often think about.

Meems, on the other hand, lived in present tense up until dementia faded her memory of all that she once loved. She danced and sang and sewed and hiked and laughed her way through life. Now she can't remember what she had for lunch when the empty plate is still sitting before her. There is, however, a saving grace. She always smiles when she sees me, whoever she thinks I am. Sometimes, I'm Carolyn. The other day she thought I was the school nurse. Either way - as long as she's still smiling in present tense - life is good.

New Year's Eve 2010

I think that she was smiling because she was "performing"

more than because she was happy.

This is Present Tense Meems.

I keep her on my desk.


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