Stories From My Grandma’s Body

Stories From My Grandma’s Body

Stories From My Grandma’s Body 1920 1272 Exodus Oktavia Brownlow

In the present, my grandma, who has turned 77 today, and who has birthed 7 children during her lifetime, talks about the diet that she will go on, on Monday.

She talks about her diet to me, and to anyone who will listen.

She calls her children.

Her church friends.

She tells the man who has come to fix her Wi-Fi about this diet, as if it is something that she has already achieved.

I have heard this enemy of a word too many times to count today. The way that she says it, diet, with extra emphasis on the die, concerns me.

In the present, my grandma, who has turned 77 today, has decided that since it is her birthday, she will eat as she pleases. This will be her last hoorah, she says. Her last time eating like this before starting her very serious diet, on Monday.

When I dutifully bring her a second, and third slice of cake, I hear whispers from her body, jumbled stories from the past.

Her body tells me that it knows that I am a writer, that it knows that I will not forget their words, and that I will utilize their tales in some way.

I listen as stealthily as I can, because my grandma is a God-fearing woman who doesn’t believe in that hocus pocus, devil stuff. I fear being forcefully bathed in baptizing water, and sleeping with bibles underneath my pillow, so hiding behind my notebook, listening, I record their stories.

Stories from her mind, that has witnessed all the joys and tragedies that come with life, and how despite everything, it has still remained sound.

Stories from her breasts, where babies have sipped, and slept, and grown. From her heart, that has loved her family the most, and a husband that left this world before her.

Stories from her hands, that have both slapped against reluctant biscuit dough, and against my rebellious brown bottom.

When I look up, I see that she is studying me, not with suspicion, but rather with a small, intelligent smile.

In the future, and on Monday, I will mix 8 ounces of almond milk with 2 scoops of plant-based protein powder.

This will be her breakfast and lunch, she says.

She will drink plenty of water, she says.

She will sleep in place of meals that she cannot eat, she does not say, but I already know.

When I bring her this modest meal, the stories from her body, and the various parts that it contains, respond desperately to the sight of it as if it already senses the shift.

Her body tells me that it has thought about this diet, and that it has thought about dying. Her body tells me that it does not want to become a body that is temporary.

I shut the words out, unable to listen anymore. Instead, I focus on my grandma and who she is, and who she will become. For days, my grandma has talked about this diet, and how she will lose all of the fat that her body holds, and none of the things that she will gain.

“I want to be skinny,” she says, naturally knowing my thoughts, peeping my questioning eyes as I watch her sip her shake. She pauses. Clears her throat, almost coughing, but she steadies herself. “I want to be well enough to travel again. I want to visit my children. I want to see them in their own homes, and not just when they visit me in mine.”

When we hear this, her body and I, a silence grows in place of our selfishness. We had thought of her wealth of weight as something formidable, as something that was not easy to perish, and never as something that was holding her back.

I listen for her approval of the health shake, and she ensures me that it is good. When she is done, I wash out the cup, and I put the almond milk where it can get the coldest. I place the plant-based protein powder where she can easily reach it.

Back in the present, when crumbs of cake fall into my grandma’s lap, I sweep them away with my hand, and while I do this I am struck with visions of the past. I see a younger me, a child, sleeping against the thighs of my grandma, feeling the flicks of the church fan against my face in defense from the Mississippi heat.

In the background, my mama says that I am too big to lay in her mother’s lap, and my grandma tells her to leave me alone, that I am her big girl, and that I can lay in her lap if I want to.

In the background, the choir sings about how this world is not our true home, how this body is only temporary, and that there will be days that go beyond this earth in the great blue sky.

As my grandma rocks me to sleep, I dream about slapping my hands against stubborn biscuit dough, feeding my grandma as she has done for me countless times. I dream about gifting my grandma with a big, beautiful body. One, that will last forever.

Header photograph © Christine Owens.

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