“Vision: Anita’s Story”
by Alan Brody
In the chill of an autumn morning’s sun, those late insect visitors are absent, but the flowers have now an intensity of color and texture and a longevity in this cooler, crisper time of year that allows one to linger over their beauty for days and even weeks at a time.
I have a mother just turned ninety who now sleeps through much of her weeks and days, at least the good ones when anxieties of the past are not stirring up memories of things that probably never happened. She who was once so meticulous must now be reminded and helped for her bath.
On her window sill she has many flower pots. My younger sister Marilyn, who my mother thinks is her younger sister Doris, comes every two or three days to water them. Mother also has a view of a small patch of tall grass and flowers through her window, and once when I visited her on a windy day she had been staring at them for hours, convinced that they were some kind of mechanical contrivance, placed there by something or someone that moved them in a remarkable show just for her entertainment.
Mother long ago stopped reading. Perhaps her eyes are losing their ability to focus, and each day she sees those flowers more and more a blur, as she makes her slow homeward journey retracing steps whence she came.
Still, on the occasional good days when we ask if she would play the piano, she may answer, “All right,” in a patient tone that stirs so many of my memories. Then we push her in her wheelchair, past all the others passing days in the dining room of the manor, to a place before an upright piano. On it is a paper that says “Anita’s Songs,” a list of 20 popular titles she must have been playing seventy years ago, when she was the young woman with the remarkable ear to whom everyone shouted out their favorites.
We ask for one, she hums a bar or two, and raises above the ivory keys hands now bony, blue-veined and spotted, fingers gnarled, hovering a moment there. Then with a magic that is as much a mystery to us as we must have felt in those first days when we looked up at the blurred outlines of her face, she plays, still with feeling.
Iowa City, October 2007