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[End Page 70]
in the wake of the end of things with adam, a good and generous man, Teresa felt the need to do something self-evidently good and generous. Adam had made her feel incapable of giving. She would show him giving. She called her older sister Deb and said, “Let’s take Granna up north.”
“Granna?” [End Page 71]
But there were tried, true ways to force Deb to override her better judgment. Teresa blew a gentle puff of air into the phone.
“I just think,” she said, “that it’s the right thing.”
When they pulled up to the retirement home where they had stashed Granna five years earlier, she was there on the bench out front, hands crossed in the lap of her high-waisted silken dress, waiting for them, looking very, very old. Where do you even get dresses like that anymore? Deb had said once, years ago. Until Deb brought them up, Teresa would never have thought to wonder about the dresses, any more than she would have wondered about Granna’s own particular skin.
“Yikes,” said Deb’s daughter, Ellie, from the back seat, as Granna rose, squinted at the car, and began to come slowly toward it, shuffling in her Band-Aid-colored shoes. Ellie was nine now. Teresa hadn’t seen her since Christmas. During the car ride, she had displayed a new knack for saying aloud the very thought that had been in Teresa’s head, too, but that she never would have voiced, so that being with Ellie was like being stripped naked before herself.
“Hush,” Deb told Ellie. Then, “Where are her bags? Doesn’t she have any bags? I’ll go ask.” Granna stopped when Deb reached her. Deb put her hand on Granna’s arm and murmured something while Granna looked past her, fixing her milky eyes on Teresa’s face.
Teresa remembered those eyes’ former sharpness. When tiny ants had overrun Granna’s kitchen in the summers of Teresa’s childhood, Granna had spotted them, even from across the room, and crushed each individually, with books, the bottoms of her dainty coffee cups, her heel, her naked fingers. She used to eye Teresa’s outfits and send her upstairs to change if she found the smallest stain or stray thread. The scrutiny had felt frightening and wondrous. No one else in Teresa’s life had ever seen her so clearly. When Teresa was eleven or twelve, though, dimness began to settle over Granna; Teresa’s mother had said she was “slowing down.” So they’d left her behind. Deb and Teresa stopped taking their summer trips with Granna to the line of cabins in the Vermont woods near where she had grown up, and they visited her less and less often. Eventually they’d taken Granna’s whole life and dumped it here, in this small, gray place.
Teresa was going to let that life out into the air again. She was going to carry Granna right back into a family Vermont trip, as if those trips had never stopped.
But her sense of the trip’s rightness was wilting, now, confronted with Granna in the flesh. Granna lowered herself into the front seat of the car while Deb fetched her forgotten suitcase. She faced straight ahead as they drove away. Her hands lay on her knees like abandoned things, the knuckles swollen and pearly as bulbs. Teresa hadn’t managed to remember her quite [End Page 72] this ancient. They’d visited her last year, Teresa, Deb, and Ellie, and sat with her for an hour in her room at the home, that space overfull of the table lamps, ceramic figurines of women in ball gowns, and patterned pillows Teresa remembered from Granna’s house—as if someone had taken that house, with everything still inside it, and squeezed and squeezed. Granna had sipped from a glass of water, spoken a few times. Now she said nothing. Nobody said anything. Granna watched the road. Teresa imagined Adam’s beautifully expressive eyes on her, rich with disappointment: Is this helping, Ter?