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The Visit

By Candance Greene

We work in silence. I slowly lift one leg, then the other. My mother chooses the more difficult task, and wipes my grandmother’s bottom. I feel shame at my unwillingness to do it. My grandmother’s face is closed to me. She stares into the distance, occasionally wincing at whatever scene is playing in her mind.

“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.

Together, 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.

We gather our belongings and walk out of the room that is my grandmother’s new home. In the car, there is no need to talk. There is no need to mention the fear we both feel thinking that scene will play again in our lives. We just turn on the radio, listen to Stevie Wonder, and hold hands at red lights.


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.

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photo by Dinty W. Moore