Lots of afternoons when I got out of school, we’d drive down to the little town where my grandparents lived to visit one of them in the hospital.
The hospital was tiny with less than ten rooms, an operating room, an emergency room where I often sat with my Papa when he needed oxygen, a nurses’ station, and a chapel. Back in those days kids weren’t usually allowed in the rooms, but everybody in town knew my grandparents and I wasn’t loud and rambunctious, so nobody said a word about my being in the room.
Or when I’d sit in a chair beside her bed and read whatever library book I’d checked out for that week.
Sometimes a biography of Wild Bill Hickock or Buffalo Bill or Wyatt Earp.
Sometimes Pippi Longstocking tale or one of the Freddy the Pig series or Charlotte’s Web.
She would listen with her eyes shut for what seemed like hours to me.
She never did like what they fed her in the hospital.
Hospital food was a drastic shock to the system of a woman who believed everything tasted better if you added a stick of butter and a can of Pet milk.
When they’d bring her meal, she’d take one sip of the coffee on her tray and make an awful face.
“Laodicea coffee. I’d like to spew it right out of my mouth!” she’d say, referring to the church described as being lukewarm in the book of Revelation in the New Testament.
I always laughed when she would hold the peach slices in her mouth so that when she smiled that’s all you could see.
Even that last time, when I was 17.
I saw her again this past week, brushing my mother’s silver hair in her hospital bed, telling me, “you can’t brush it too hard, Sally, I’m not tender-headed.”
Then, weak as she was, she’d chuckle and make a purring sound like a cat because brushing her hair felt so good.
Just like her mother did so many years ago.