“Get that girl away from me!” Nana’s eyes shrivel into slits as she swats me with the television remote.
“Ah, now Ms. Hancock,” says Lydia, Nana’s nurse. “Calm down. It’s Adie. Remember? Your grandchild. She’s just trying to give you a hug.”
“She’s not the right girl. She’s not.” Nana lowers her chin against her chest and sobs.
Lydia puts her arm around my shoulders. “She’ll be okay in a minute. How are you, honey?”
“Every weekend she’s so different--older and meaner--nothing like herself. She doesn’t even know who I am anymore.” I try to swallow my pain, but it explodes in messy gasps.
“Oh, shhh. It’s okay,” Lydia says, letting me saturate her sweater with tears. “You and I both know who that right girl is. She just can’t keep up with changes anymore, Adie. You’ve grown so much, already sixteen! You just need to hang on to all those memories you have of her because you know what? Deep inside she’s still that same beautiful person you love.”
“Tell you what. I’ll give her a warm sponge bath to calm her down. Why don’t you have a seat in the lobby, and I’ll call you back when we’re finished.”
“Okay. Thanks, Lydia.”
I sit on a rigid blue couch and open the compact mirror from my purse. Lovely, just lovely. I hate being a red-head. When I cry my whole face turns pink.
The reflection staring back at me looks nothing like my Mom. She’s like Angelina Jolie or Kathryn Zeta Jones--a stunning dark haired beauty. When I was little I watched her sweep up her hair in bejeweled barrettes and draw thin black lines around her eyes. Sometimes she’d shift her gaze from herself to me. “Let’s do some magic,” she’d say, dabbing and blending small, cool dots of foundation over my freckles. “Don’t worry about those freckles, Adie. When you’re older make up will fade them out. And you can change your hair color too. Probably not to my color, but you’d look natural as a blond.”
When Dad discovered that the bachelor with the bigger house and newer car two doors down was more to mom than “just a friend,” they divorced. Dad and I moved in with Nana to help her run her farm, which had been hard for her to manage by herself after Poppy’s death.
My Mom stopped visiting and calling me a year after the divorce. When I told Nana it must be because she didn’t want to look at her ugly daughter anymore, Nana lightly smacked my thigh with her wooden spoon. “Don’t you ever talk that way about yourself Adie Lee Hanckock! God gave me a beautiful grand-daughter with big green eyes and curly red hair like her Daddy’s and her Poppy’s.”
“You really think I’m pretty, Nana?”
“Darlin,” she said as she held up my chin and looked directly into my eyes, “you’re such a pretty little thing it brings tears to my eyes.” And there were tears in her eyes.
“Hello!” A tug on my jeans pulls me from my memory. I look down at a little girl so tiny and delicate it seems she should be wrapped in tissue paper.
I smile as she props her elbows on the chair beside me. Her smile showcases a bracelet of baby pearls. “Hello! I am Sky.” She points to a woman leaning over an
elderly patient in a nearby room. “And that’s my Mom and my Granny. We have to be quiet because she is sick now.” She grabs an orange Crayon and impresses me as she almost correctly spells the word a-l-z-h-i-m-e-r-s next to a kitten she’d been coloring. “It’s called this,” she whispers as she points to the word.
“Yeah. My Nana has the same thing,” I whisper back.
“I just turned five!” she says, jolting up, swishing her hips like a hula girl, and proudly showing the matching digits on her hand.
“That is so cool! It definitely calls for a celebration! Would you like a cookie?” I remove the foil pouch from my purse. “I brought these for my Nana. They don’t have much sugar, but you can have one if it’s okay with your mom.”
Sky skips off to ask her mom who nods and smiles in my direction.
“They’re cherry-almond, Nana’s favorite,” I say as she nestles beside me and shoves half the cookie in her mouth. “We used to make cookies together every Saturday. My favorite are sugar cookies with sprinkles.”
“Spwinkwus?” she asks, spewing crumbs from her mouth.
“Yeah. You know, the little tiny candy shapes that you sprinkle on cookies? Nana’s lazy Susan used to be filled with all different kinds of pretty sprinkles.”
“Huh? Who is lazy Susan?”
“It’s not a person,” I laugh. “It’s a cabinet that spins around.”
“Oh,” she says, yawning, curling up, and reclining her head on my lap.
I try not to laugh at her boldness as she smiles up at me, squinting her eyes. “Hey, where’d you get your sprinkles?”
“All them little sprinkles all over your face.” She lightly pokes at my cheeks.
“Sprinkles? I never heard anyone call them that before. They’re freckles, little sun spots. And I guess, well, I guess God sprinkled them on me.”
“Hmmm,” she says, gradually relaxing her smile and closing her eyes.
“Oh, I’m so sorry about that. Let me take her,” Sky’s mom kisses Sky’s cheek as she lifts her into her arms. “This one’s a mess, I tell you. She probably talked your ears off.”
“No, she’s a sweetie,” I assure her as Lydia stands at the corner to escort me back to Nana’s room.
“Adie’s here again, Ms. Hancock,” Lydia sings out.
But, Nana doesn’t look at me. Her head wobbles slightly, like an infant’s, as she
looks up at the TV. “Give the wheel a spin,” Pat Sajak tells a contestant. Nana used to turn on Wheel of Fortune every night and high-five me each time one of us solved a puzzle before a contestant.
“Hi. I made your favorite.” She looks down at the two cookies as I place them on the napkin in her lap.
Checking that the remote is out of reach, I lightly hug her.
“You know,” she says with a frail, sad voice after many slow nibbles, “I used to make cookies with my little grand-daughter.”
I look into her confused eyes and down at her hand, sprinkled in age-spots. I slide it into my own. I miss you too, Nana, is what I love her too much to say out loud.