She remembers seven years ago like it was this afternoon.
She can still see him falling, vessels in his head screaming at him, screaming at her, in a single moment eradicating his ability to stand on legs once strong and lean.
She sits outside on the patio after opening gifts and tells stories both familiar and foreign. I knew the one about the intitial aneurysm, and the subsequent strokes. I knew they had spent Thanksgiving until three days before Christmas in the ICU. I remember visiting them there, the stale smell. I remember squeezing his hand, remember him squeezing mine. I remember the grandfather of a good high school friend of mine occupying a room only two doors down from where my family sat, huddled around the bed of the man that, up until this moment, we were all sure was invincible.
My grandpa was always the strong silent type. 6’2” and able to fix anything. Like the time he helped me build a catapult for a class project (my tennis ball flew the furthest). Or the time he rebuilt my car from scratch after it had been totalled my senior year in high school.
He was always speaking with actions where most used words. We never anticipated his ability to speak would disappear one moment when we weren’t ready, before we had memorized the last syllable he uttered to each of us.
She still looks at him as if she just fell in love with him yesterday. And when she tells us stories about life before the wheelchair, I see her eyes gleam. I watch her remember herself in his arms, the two of them two-stepping their way across raising four kids, owning a house, traveling, spoiling eight grandbabies. But her eyes, they still gleam for him. And over the past seven years they have created a new language together. Without her, he is almost impossible to understand. Without her, he is less alive.
She remembers her last syllable from him. She remembers that he told her he loved her. Everyday she lives with an “I love you” seven years old, still ringing in her ears.
And so every year when this day dawns, when it comes time to celebrate her birthday, she celebrates his.
Babycarrot sister and gramps.