The Nursing Home on Gill Terrace

The Nursing Home on Gill Terrace

At the end
my grandmother was already in the nursing home
up on Gill Terrace
at the edge of a steep hill
from the Freeze Locker,
lying in bed,
perfectly happy
without any mind left at all.

Nana, I’d say
how are you?
She’d look at me
smiling a little
and say what time is it?
Because I never wore a watch,
I’d glance around
but before I responded
she’d say
where am I?
I’d nod
and she would ask
how did you get here?
and then she’d turn away
to look out the window.

She looked shrunken
yet still drinking fluids the nurses said.
As I sat there for a few days
it seemed as if the entire Village knew her,
people popping in to say hi
and Nana glanced out at them,
quizzical, not quite present.

But when I arranged
for her husband
to join her at the Gill home,
it felt like walking into a nightmare.

Pop, I said,
it’s not working,
you living here alone
and pushing everyone out
even Aunt Sally.
He stared back at me,
mouth tight
and teeth clenched together,
Vermonter to the end,
not saying a thing
except when I gathered up his clothes and things
pulling the car around to the kitchen door.

He sat looking out the Dining Room window
and said to me
Stan, why are you doing this?
And I didn’t say anything at all
but we started
to cry together
and I’ve cried
for more than forty years.