By Candance Greene
“Grab the Depend,” my mother says quietly. Her face is stern. She looks angry. I help her push the diaper up my grandmother’s thighs. I have never seen her thighs, I think. They are ashen trunks of flesh rippling under the force of the cloth, these pampers we place on her.
“Help me,” my mother says, her eyes pleading, her mouth set. “I’m sorry,” I say under my breath. I walk to the head of the bed and gently lift my grandmother’s hips in hopes this method will make the job of diapering her easier.
“Mama,” my grandmother says in a childlike voice. I stare into her eyes, not knowing what to say. This woman, the very core of our family, grabs my forearm and says, “Mama, I’m so happy to see you.”
I look at my own mother. She is wringing her hands. Her eyes fill with tears. She looks at me, urges me to say something, anything worthwhile. I look at my grandmother, smooth her white hair, and wonder why she always kept it hidden under those synthetic wigs, why she never saw its beauty. “It’s alright,” I tell her. She smiles, and her eyes glaze. The moment is over.
we finish dressing her and place a flannel nightgown over her flaccid
body. I watch mom clean my grandmother’s fingernails. She makes sure
to wash the undersides, massage the cuticles, lovingly lotion her hands
as my grandmother sleeps.
Candance L. Greene is a writer and 2006 graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing program at Goucher College. Some of her poems and essays are published in several anthologies including Bittersweet: An Anthology of Contemporary Black Women’s Poetry. She currently lives in Baltimore, MD, with her husband and son, and is writing a book about faith.
photo by Dinty W. Moore