I’m writing this morning from Annie’s room in my parents’ house where I spent the night last night. Annie’s old room, I should say, as my mom has begun to refer to it. And it doesn’t really feel like Annie’s room so much with the hospital bed lowered, its rail tucked down to the side, without the wheelchair and manual lift, without Annie.
But there are still items in the room that remind me—a homemade envelope of red construction paper decorated with a border of lace and labeled in large print with black marker, “Annie’s Schedule,” hanging from a hook on the wall above the bed. The pictures of our now deceased grandparents holding us when we were small, I framed when Annie was sick and I feared she was dying, “Annie has these angels in heaven,” I had said to my mom.
A crucifix lies on a doily on the bedside table along with a small pink fairy and a stem of artificial sweetheart roses. That’s all new. And the four pink posters decorated with silk orchids, that Carol and I made, propped against the walls on the dresser and cedar chest, covered with photos of Annie smiling—they’re new too.
When I woke up this morning my eyes focused on the wall beside Annie’s bed and I noticed some light scratches. “That’s right!” I thought, “When Annie was young she used to scratch her headboard in the morning when she woke up. We’d hear it on the intercom and know she was awake.” A new memory reclaimed, even after the days, weeks and months of excavating my soul for memories to fill the pages of Annie’s memoir. I had forgotten that.
The dolls Mom hung from the crown molding on the wall opposite the bed so that Annie could see them still smile down from the height. The T.V. is gone, but the stereo is here, although I don’t see the stack of Barry Manilow, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, and Kenny Rogers cds.
Two small decorative angels hang from the curtains at the windows. They might have been there before.
The green ribbons I tied on Annie’s bed railing to secure a foam padding and protect Mom’s arm when she started feeding Annie in bed near the end are still tied in bows there, although the padding is gone.
Mom put a throw rug over the threadbare spot on the carpet, worn down from minutes accumulating to hours and hours adding up to days where my dad stood to lift Annie from her bed into her wheelchair, or my mom stood to change Annie’s diapers, or dress her, or bathe her. The carpet hides the spot, but I know it is still there.
I think the pink gym shoes with the Velcro fasteners that wait on the cedar chest are the hardest to take.
After more than 18 months since Annie died, mostly it’s gotten easier. But some days, not so much.
Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote