“Do you know your Grandmother’s name?” Nathan asked when he finally broke the silence. They had walked right into the hospital lobby through the sliding doors which opened readily for them. One young man in the waiting area gave the doors a strange and uncomfortable look when they opened and no one came in, but otherwise neither Nathan nor Mya caused any disturbance. Now that they reached the front desk, though, Nathan had to ask. He decided it would be far easier to look her up than wander the halls for half the night. The sun was ready to set.
“Marylin Thorn.” Mya spoke without hesitation. Nathan nodded and started to reach for the front register when he heard a woman’s voice.
“Marylin Thorn is in room 317.” The woman behind the desk never once looked up.
“Thank you,” Mya responded.
“Yes, thanks,” and Nathan hustled Mya away from that area. He did not want to scare anyone. Without thinking things through, both went to the elevators and Mya pushed the button.
“Mother always lets me push the buttons,” she said. Nathan wondered how this was going to work out.
When the elevator came, there was one man in the car. He did not get off as they scooted by, but he did stick his head out the door to see if there was anyone there. The man shrugged and stood back while the elevator doors closed and Nathan stopped Mya’s hand from pushing the button for floor three. He noticed they were going down one more flight.
“But we have to go to three,” Mya protested at full volume.
“Shh! I know. Just wait, please.” Nathan answered as quietly as he could and he saw the man lift his head as if he heard something but he was not quite sure what he heard. Fortunately, the doors opened fairly quickly and the man got out and stiffened his collar tight against his neck as if suddenly chilled. “Now,” Nathan said, and Mya pushed the three just before a big woman got on and pushed four. The woman frowned once at the man who just left. Nathan matched the woman’s frown, because he thought if the woman stood by the doors, there was no way they would be able to scoot around her to get out on the third floor. Fortunately, the woman pushed to the back and Nathan and Mya were just able to squeeze past her without touching her. They got off quickly when the doors opened on three before someone else got on.
“Three seventeen, now let’s see.” Nathan looked at the numbers and arrows on the wall.
“Down here.” Mya took Nathan’s hand and lead the way. Now that she was on the floor, she remembered better. In fact, Mya found her memory and her mind overall was becoming very sharp and focused. She was thinking and seeing life through pre-teen eyes by then because she was indeed growing up even as Nathan was getting younger, not that they knew it, exactly. His mind, by contrast, was mercifully forgetting all sorts of embarrassing and difficult moments as the years dropped away, even while his mind also sharpened overall with the clarity of youth. With Nathan, though, he thought it was only how he felt. That long walk down so many city blocks, and without the least hint of pain or difficulty, had done him wonders. But with Mya it was becoming obvious if they cared to notice. Still, they really did not realize any of this until Grandma noticed, and said as much when they saw her.
“She has Alzheimer’s,” Mya warned before they entered the room.
What they found was a bit of a surprise. The woman was physically curled up in a ball, her knees drawn up to her chest and her hands in tight little fists pulled right to her chin; but that was just her body. The woman herself, or at least the image and outline of the woman, like her spirit or her ghost, was sitting up, legs outstretched and hands resting comfortably at her side. The woman appeared to be asleep at the moment, so they came in quietly and Mya pulled up a chair. As she sat, she reached out. “Grandma?” She found that she could touch the woman, or at least she could touch her grandmother’s spirit hand.
Grandma opened her eyes slowly. “Mya.” She recognized the girl right away; her spirit-self did all the talking and was very animated. The body in the bed, by contrast, barely fluttered her eyes.
“Grandma. I wanted to see you. I – I. Are you better?”
“No dear.” Grandma took a firm hold of Mya’s hand and reached over with her other hand to pat-pat that hand. “I’ll be gone soon I think. Sometimes the body doesn’t have the good sense to quit, but I am very sick, Pneumonia, you know. Still, I am content to wait. It would be wrong to rush these things, though I hope they have the good sense to let me go when the time comes.” She stole a glance at Nathan before she returned her eyes to her granddaughter. “But now stand up so I can get a good last look at you.” While Mya stood, Nathan thought that this woman’s body might be wracked with Alzheimer’s and pneumonia, but her spirit seemed strong and healthy and very aware. It was something that people – living people should know. Too bad there was no way to tell them.
Mya turned once slowly all of the way around. Nathan had his hands at his side at the moment and he noticed that presently the little girl was nearly as tall as his elbow where she had started out barely as tall as his wrist.
“My, how grown up you are getting.” Grandma made the expected comment before she added a thought. “What are you now, nine or ten? Pretty soon you will be getting bumps of your own.”
“Grandma.” Mya sounded like a true pre-teen. She sat, turned a little red and glanced briefly at Nathan.
Grandma explained for the stranger in the room. “When Mya was just a baby with a limited vocabulary she called them bumps every time she wanted to nurse.” Grandma smiled and Nathan smiled, too as he looked at Mya and watched her turn a bit redder.
“Grandma. This is my friend.” Mya attempted to change the subject.
“Nathan.” He introduced himself. “You have a fine granddaughter. She missed her school bus, so I took it upon myself to bring her to see you. I have a great-grand just about her age.”
“Very gentlemanly of you,” Grandma said. “But I should say, you hardly look old enough to have a ten-year-old granddaughter, much less a great-grand.”
“Grandma, I’m only seven,” Mya said, though that did not sound right at the moment even to her own ears.
Grandma lifted her brows and her body shifted ever so slightly in the bed. “You know I cannot speak to your mother like I can to you. That is very frustrating. I tend to sleep a lot when she is here.” Grandma sat up a little straighter and her body moved a little again. “I think you had better tell me what happened.”
Mya started slowly, but she finished the story in a rush. She left out nothing, including the part about the angel. Nathan found some tears as she talked, and Mya had some tears as well. Grandma’s eyes filled up with tears, but it was her body that let a few of those tears fall while she went back to patting Mya’s hand and said, “My baby. My poor baby.”
“It will be all right, Grandma.” Mya was trying hard to be positive about it all.
“I won’t leave her alone.” Nathan promised.
“I am so glad that you are not alone.” Grandma finally took her hands back. “He seems a fine man. Don’t be afraid.”
“That is what the angel said,” Mya responded, and as she thought about the angel, she found her tears were finished and she felt much better.
“I am so sorry, my baby, but right now I am tired. I am so very, very tired.” They watched as the old woman closed her eyes. A few more tears fell from the woman’s physical body.
Mya did not want to leave right away, so they stayed for a little while and watched the old woman sleep. Soon enough Nathan stepped up and put his hands gently on Mya’s shoulders. He helped her rise from the chair. He wanted to get her moving before the tears returned, but he was not quick enough. Mya threw her arms around him and cried into his belly, while he smoothed her long black hair with his hand, patted her back and made reassuring sounds. He led her back into the hall just before the nurse came into the room.
“It will be all right. Everything is going to be all right.” He helped her down the hall only to stop in front of the water fountain. “Are you thirsty?” She was. There was a tall water fountain there, and a second fountain which was lower to the ground for the children. Mya had to stand on her toes, but she seemed delighted that she could reach the big fountain.
“I don’t want to stay little forever,” she said when she pulled back from the water. Some of the water dripped off her chin and down the front of her dress. She looked and wiped the water with her hand, but she was looking at her chest. “When I get breasts, I hope they are nice ones.”
Nathan felt a little embarrassed on hearing that. He could hardly say I hope they are, too; but he felt he had to say something. “I would not think that was so important.” That was what he said. When she looked up at him with deep questions in her eyes, he put his foot in it. “Breasts are for babies, right?” He regretted saying that as soon as it was out of his mouth. Mya wailed and began to cry again in earnest. The nurse came out of the room and looked up at the ceiling before she shivered and walked hurriedly back to the nurse’s station. Poor Mya was wracked with tears, and all Nathan could do was hold her and let her weep. He dared not say anything more. He dared not open his mouth. But when she collapsed to the floor, Nathan got right down with her. “There, there. It will be all right.” He felt he could say that much, even as he found a few tears of his own.
After a time, when Mya’s and Nathan’s eyes were both red, and Mya’s breathing was only interrupted now and then with moments of sniffles, Nathan got out his handkerchief and found it was perfectly clean. He took a corner to wipe her face and have her blow her nose