My cousin and I sat on the worn, gold carpet on the stairs tonight. My grandmother lay in the room off the hall surrounded by family. Though she’s 100 saying goodbye isn’t easy. Watching her struggle is even harder. I had succumbed to the sad and escaped to the stairs. My cousin sat beside me and grinned, “remember those green cushions we used to slide down on?” She tilted her head indicating the top of the stairs.
For a few moments we laughed as we remembered days gone by when we would take those hard, cheap plastic avocado green with chartreuse flowers and bump our way down these very stairs. The banister and these stairs are at the start and at the center of most of my childhood memories in this house.
We were sad but we didn’t have to talk about being sad-we just sat shoulder to shoulder on the stairs and were sad together. “I never knew this stairway was painted green,” she said after a few minutes. I looked and there in the worn wood were faint traces of green.
There was only one person who could tell us if that stairwell had ever been green. My nanny. She could have told us thousands of things about this house. This house with all it’s history. And she would have-happily-when she could have.
My nanny isn’t warm fuzzy. We didn’t bake cookies together or snuggle under covers while she read us stories. That wasn’t her. But she did tell is stories. Stories of who we were-who we came from. One Christmas she brought out a bunch of letter written by my ancestors. They told the love stories and told tales of war. That was what my grandmother did-she kept history alive. She would have known if the stairs had ever been painted. She would have known the color and the year they were painted, why they were painted and probably even who had painted them.
But I never asked her about the stairs. And tonight I sat on them knowing I never would. And my heart hurt.
Moments later 2 cousins and a cousins -in-law joined us. Then another. Then one more. Then an aunt. We sat-as grown ups exactly where we had once played together as children.
And I cried…cried because nanny was the center of it all. There were 70+ people on the family picture taken in the front yard is this very house just a few months before. And nanny sat in the very center of us all. She sat in the middle if the picture with all of us that bear her name. She sat in the center of the boys and men that bare my Grandpa’s name. The center.
And now she’s at the center again. Only this time we are gathering around a hospital bed in a room in her antebellum home. At one point there were more then 11 of us in there. Only this time we were gathering to say goodbye.
I believe she heard us-each whispering some version of goodbye. For each of is she represents something different and so each of our goodbyes are unique. My heart wants to believe she heard each one and that she will soon find peaceful sleep there in the center of us all.
And I’ll forever wish I would have asked her if those stairs had ever been painted green.