She picks up a bag with a bible, a blouse, her toothbrush, perfume and whatever else she might have slipped in there when we weren’t looking.
At times, when she puts it down and cannot find it, she tells me that someone here is stealing her things. But when I direct her to whatever stolen thing she’s told me about, she quickly corrects, agrees and says yes, she knew it was there.
We sit in front of the open door with the fan circulating the July heat through the small spaces of my youth.
The walls that saw me take my first steps, that were witness to countless hugs, kisses and tickle fights now stand sentry to circular conversations, frustration, tears, joys relived and discussions about travels that never will be.
I watch her and try to ease the latest bout of anxiety. This time, about the people sitting across the street. She is worried they are looking at her. Nervous that she is in someone else’s house and they will arrive to kick her out.
I try to ease her mind. Remind her I am here. That this is her house. Her fears leave her momentarily when I stand up and she puts her arms around me. I rub her back, her head. Pray over her. That the ancestors bring her mind some peace.
Sometimes she falls into the spaces in which she lived. The ones where we are more than a distant memory. She excuses herself from the fight. Says something comes over her but tells me she loves my godsister, her child, and doesn’t mean to get mad.
These are precious moments. I rush to call Bea to us and repeat what was said. I know her heart needs this. Caregiving is never easy. Caregiving a loved one who has dementia is probably the hardest thing one can do, especially when they get extra ornery.
“Bea, is this my house?” she finally asks at one point. “It is.” Bea responds.
This eases her mind a bit. When we move her from the front of the house, she starts up again. Finally, I stand before her, rub her arms and she smiles big for me, all at once, releasing the worry that seems to have gripped her for the last few minutes.
I tell her she is okay. That she doesn’t need to worry. That she is not alone. I cup her face and kiss it. She laughs and thanks me for the comfort I just brought her.
I might have to do this again before heading to my temporary home while I visit. Before changing my skin and leaving behind my heart.
But for now, we hold hands. For now, her heart knows mine. And I am grateful for this moment. For this grace.