Sunset – Dianna Calareso
I eased onto the bedspread, trying to balance my weight evenly between my hands and knees. Grandpa’s eyelids twitched as if he were trying as hard as he could to keep them closed. He mumbled a little as my shifting woke him.
“Hi,” I whispered. “Can I lie next to you for a little while?”
“You can do whatever you want, you know that.”
The sun fell in through the skylight above us, casting shadows in the hallway leading to the bathroom that Grandpa couldn’t use alone. My great grandparents, stolid and frozen in time, watched from a framed wedding portrait on the wall, the gold-leaf frame textured with leaves layered on thick, like impasto paint.
“So I’ve been thinking I want to be a chef,” I said, sliding closer to him so I could feel the warmth of his body. His arms rested on his belly, which rose and fell slow and measured like my father’s when he fell asleep watching football.
“Well that sounds like something.”
“We could open a restaurant.”
“Okay.” He scratched his forehead. “And split the profit seventy-thirty?”
“That’s not fair!”
“Deal.” I smiled and crossed my arms behind my head. I felt young in this room, younger than the green velour chair with a pair of pants draped over the back, younger than the white wooden armoires with black trim that flanked a matching vanity table long since used, younger than my great grandmother on the wall.
“So about the restaurant,” I said. “I assume it will be Italian.”
He gestured to me. “And only good looking people can come in.”
“And you and I will be the judges of that.”
Only Grandma spent time with him in this room, reminding him how to lie down for naps, following him into the bathroom, stroking his back when he realized he had said something that didn’t make sense. I rested my head on his shoulder; he didn’t always know me, but he always seemed to trust me.
I looked down the length of the bed at his feet, toes standing straight up under thick white socks. Grandma kept the air conditioner as cold as she could because she didn’t love the heat, and Grandpa wore socks in the summer.
As he coughed, I checked the clock on the bedside table—almost five, which meant soon he would be “sundowning.” Grandma would hurry me out of the house so I wouldn’t have to see him at his most confusing part of his day, the time when his lucidity slipped away with the sunlight.
But leaving him alone seemed like the worst thing to do. He was far away in a dream, and though I couldn’t go with him, I could wait, here on the bed under the skylights, warmed on all sides by the sun above, the bedspread beneath, and Grandpa’s steady breathing.
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Dianna Calareso is a writer, editor, and teacher in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes creative nonfiction with a special interest in family memoir, and her essays have been published online and in print. She authors a creative nonfiction blog (dcalareso.blogspot.com) and recently completed her first memoir, At Ease. Dianna earned her MFA from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.