On Telling Cayden

“She will not get better,” I correct Jenn, when talking to Cayden about my grandmother.
I’m not being unkind. “May not” is at this point just inaccurate. A nicety.
“Would you like to see her?”
We’ve just made the best scrambled eggs ever, me and Cayde, salt being the final ingredient.
Salt is something you rub into a wound, else pour into a healing bath. Cayde is too young to know the difference.
One time he specifically requested ‘sodium chloride’ to season his dinner: ‘Dad, can you pass the sodium chloride?’ He’s precocious, and it’s salt—sodium chloride—that he thinks finishes everything.
Like Lot’s wife. Like scrambled eggs that are done perfectly, the curds all wet and yellow. Sometimes, though, salt is somewhere in between, neither first nor final. Season as you go.
“Do you just want to remember her happy?”
Cayde places his head in my lap. He says ‘No.’ He then says, ‘Yes.’ He can’t decide because he’s seven. We’ve just told him about tumors and cancer.These are things he already knows about—we’re not teaching him anything. We alert him to the recent metastasis, that family’s on its way.
(My friend Jason: he died over the phone, him saying “I love you, Thom,” when he was fourteen and missing a leg and in far-retreat. His mother said the morphine was keeping him comfortable. I didn’t say anything back).
I haven’t seen cancer again until just recently. I’m relieved when Cayden says, “I just want to remember her happy.”
On the drive to my Grandma’s house, there’s a blue heron that conspicuously lands a number of feet beyond the freeway exit. It floats up and beyond the sea fig, which invariably lines the asphalt. Where the exhaust settles there are dead tendrils, where the flowers refuse to phosphor.
Cayde says before I get into the car, “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
He also says: “I hope she recognizes you, Daddy,” because we talked about what happens in the end, and—true to everything, and what it means to die—the jaw goes slack and pupils pin. I see my Grandma’s gold bridges because her mouth is agape and she has strawberry stains on the creases of her mouth.
We feed her strawberry mash–which is in season and unreasonably red—and mango sorbet, which houses her pills.
My grandma does recognize me, and we hold hands briefly.
I kiss my grandma good-bye. There are strategies to move her onto the commode and it means navigating the three stairs into her recessed bedroom where the bed is something of percale and where perhaps she can be more comfortable. I leave before any indignity.

Outside that window, that one above the antiquated linen, I picked green garlic on her urging and it’s where the pigeons shit and where I watered her plants. Always that one stain on the concrete where the birds sit on the eaves and in between houses, cooing.
She: “Can you water the front?”
Me: ‘Sure.’
She mouthed something when I left. She had thin hair. I could’ve pinned a blossom to her skin, it being paper.
I don’t know what she said.
I tell Cayde: ‘She recognized me.’
He again says ‘sorry.’ He’s seven. But he hugs me and there is the weight of his head on my lap and I rest my hand on his skull, which I invented, and I very much believe him.


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