It can be very hard when someone you love is losing their memory, not to lose yours too. It’s easy to only see who they are in the moment, and not who they are really, which includes who they have been and who they will be.
My Nanny is, has always been and will always be, one of my best friends.
In my earliest memories, I remember being sung to by my parents, separately, in different songs. I remember being able to go down the loft stairs without touching the ground. But mostly, I remember Nanny.
I remember going to sleep at my big country house and waking up in her little city one, waking up, beside her. I remember pulling her ears while she rocked and sang to me. She sang Hush Little Baby and All the Pretty Little Horses— that was my favorite: blacks and bays, dapples and grays. I remember a jewelry box. She was showing my sister the ballerina that spun on the surface of the lake inside, but I saw it too. I remember, later, her food. Oh the glorious food, heaps of it, all the day. I remember the coffee we would drink in bed. She showed me how to pour into my saucer to cool it down. I bet it spilt all over the sheets, but I don’t remember that. I remember riding in the back of her car, little and tan, like herself, and hearing her pray, “Lord, keep this precious cargo safe.” I remember the moment I realized, all goosebumped, that she was talking about me, about me to an invisible God.
It was Nanny, I think, who gave me the name Sarie. It was Nanny who dressed me up and brushed my hair, one hundred strokes every morning, even when I looked like Alf. It was Nanny who could tell me tales of Indian Territory, the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, of an Okie girl who left home, suddenly, for California, married a kind, but unknown soldier and lived an average, but remarkable existence of fidelity to everything she was called to.
It was Nanny and it continued to be Nanny for a very long time.
Her mind is fragile now. The fault line gave way when that unknown soldier died. “I know people think I’m a hard person,” she said the other day. It’s not the forgetting that’s made her so, but the remembering that she has forgotten. It’s the fear of helplessness. But I remember who loved me when I was helpless. When I needed arms and songs and food and stories and time, all the time. I remember who remembered me.
I remember Nanny.