Coming out of Lancaster city, I keep making the same wrong turn on to the back roads that lead to our old house. You would think that after being away for four months, these ruts of routine would have been worn away. Big adventures, like big rains, can have a huge amount of eroding power. Yet the outdated pathways in my brain that lead to our old home prevail, and I find myself making a lot of u-turns or simply driving out around on roads that seem to have nothing in common with my actual destination.
* * * * *
In her less lucid moments, Grandma asks about our cows. Or talks about the wonderful dinner she had in Virginia earlier that day. Her mind circles around to the past quite a bit, like someone trying to get home but making wrong turns. She did not remember me on Monday evening when my dad and I went over to visit her.
“Kyle,” she kept saying slowly, referring to my cousin, and all the while her distant eyes looked deep into mine.
I leaned in close to her and noticed that she smelled good, like some kind of hand cream, and her skin was soft. I kissed her cheek and held her face in my hands, something which for some reason made me feel very happy. I smiled.
“Grandma, I’m Shawn. Shaaaawn. Not Kyle.”
“Yes, Shawn,” I said. “I’m much more handsome than Kyle.”
She paused, looked at me, and for an instant she was there. Present. The flash of a clear signal on a station otherwise clouded by static.
“Shawn,” she said slowly, and I could tell she was disappointed with herself for forgetting.
* * * * *
I pulled into the country church parking lot. To my right, the old hide-and-seek graveyard. Behind me, the woods that led down to the creek. In front of us, the farmhouse where I grew up.
“There it is, Cade. That’s where I grew up.”
He always asks me to take him there. I had finally made the time.
“We use to tear around that house,” I said, smiling. “We used to climb those apple trees.”
I find my mind circling around to those days a lot. I find myself seeking out the old, familiar paths.
* * * * *
I sat quietly with Grandma holding her hand. Even though I desperately love them, sometimes spoken words are meaningless, especially in such uncharted territory. I feel her knuckles. Her tender skin. Her fingers, sometimes still, sometimes searching for perhaps the border of a quilt, or the eye of a needle, or the hand of my grandfather. Who knows what.
And because in that moment our words felt meaningless, like back roads no longer needed, we sat in a beautiful stillness, an endearing peace around us. It was there in that nursing home that I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t by driving that I would get out of the circular rut I was in. Neither movement nor action nor words could deliver me.
I was trying to achieve with “doing” what only silence and waiting could accomplish. So I sit. I wait. And new, previously uncharted ways begin to form in the persistence of these small drops.