My mom sat, her eyebrows crowding so close that her forehead formed a perfect line to keep them from becoming one. Her face—a mix of brown skin and the blue hues emitting from her laptop.
In front of her, the counter was cached in clipped coupons and sales advertisements. Today was grocery day. Well, more like grocery week, but when you have 10 kids, it’s worth the days of preparation to find the best deals. Her hands kept a steady pace of scrolling, pausing every minute or so to write down an item.
Without looking up my mom yelled, “Ravin!”
How did she see me standing here?
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, catching my eyes from rolling.
“Can you hand me the . . . uh . . . the . . . um,” her voice trailed off as she refocused on the screen. I turned to walk away as she finished in a whisper, “Can you hand me the, uh, what’s-its-name.”
She did that a lot—a quirk that often irritated me. Yet, somehow, I almost always knew what she was asking for. I slid my feet, feeling the crack between each board of hardwood scrape across them. I peeked in the kitchen drawer, not there.
Picking up my feet this time, I walked to the bathroom and yanked the top drawer open. Got it! I swung on my heels and went back to sliding, letting my feet feel the textured floor beneath them. I slowed down as I rounded the corner, careful not to stub my toe on the Queen Anne china cabinet.
Pausing, I looked up at the wooden structure, as grand as its name. The deep amber wood glossed in the room’s light, the top branching up to hold frosted glass cabinets. This once belonged to my grandmother and, perched behind one of the glass panes, there was a photo of her.
She was pictured with her husband, wearing a golden silk blazer with red roses stitched around the collar. Her glasses, which framed the middle of her forehead down to her cheekbones had a similar red hue. She smiled so wide that it looked like it might crack her face—and in some places, it did.
She smiled so wide that it looked like it might crack her face—and in some places, it did.
Lines formed on her head, mapping the years she had repeated this same smile. Her cheekbones lifted from the rest of her face so that creases appeared in the shape of an arrow from her eyes down to her chin. Even her silver hair flowed down, scooping across her face, as if to also point out her smile.
I turned to look over my shoulder. My mom was still sitting with her eyes now focused on a new set of coupons.
“You look like her,” I thought to myself.
I wished the thought away as soon as it came to me, quickly looking back at the photo. This captured moment is not how I knew my grandmother—no golden outfits or silver hair or face cracking smiles. What I remembered of her was a basement apartment with no windows. The air, so oppressive, it felt as if it might rain right there in the living room.
I remember my grandmother staring at the walls with a mess of gray wire wrapped into braids on top of her head. My mom would kneel, leaning her face within an inch of her mom’s.
“Hey, mom,” she’d smile, making her cheekbones lift from the rest of her face. She’d brush her mother’s cheek with a thumb and say, “Hey, mom it’s Robyn,” lines forming on her forehead.
For a moment, my grandmother’s eyes would break from the wall and gaze at my mom. She’d stare, sifting through fractured memories until she’d forget what she was looking for and resume gazing at the wall. I didn’t want my mom to look like her. I feared that she, too, would one day look at me and not recognize her daughter.
I feared that she, too, would one day look at me and not recognize her daughter.
Whisking away the memory, I focused my eyes again on the photo in front of me; I loved and despised it all at once. I could hear my mom get up behind me, her socks sliding across the textured floor. It must be taking me too long. She came and stood beside me, following my gaze to the photo of her mother. I turned to look up at her, a patch of silver hair framing her face.
“You look like her,” I muttered, my cheekbones lifting from the rest of my face as I smiled.
“I know,” she said, arrows appearing from her eyes down to her chin.
She suddenly looked down at me, “Did you grab the scissors like I asked?”
I had almost forgotten; the metal blades were now warm in my hand.
“Oh yeah,” I said, handing them to her.
She grabbed them and swung on her heels, this time picking up her feet and resuming her place at the table. Before long, the line between her eyebrows returned and she was cutting out her new finds.
As I walked away, I whispered to myself, “You look like her.”
Have you ever lost someone close to you? How do you process loss and grief?
Image via Callie Giovanna, Darling Issue No. 7