January 10, 2008

Her dresses

My grandma wears polyester dresses.

Many are stored in a white chest of drawers covered with baby powder and dust. They fill the top drawer like cloth waves of blue and purple and green, refusing to stay folded. Most of her dresses have a pattern. Some have white fabric in them that is more orange now, probably from her water that tastes like iron.

My mother once said that all she wants from the house when my grandmother passes is her rainbow of polyester dresses, so she can make a quilt from them. I can't imagine a prettier one.

Her dress today was pink, in her usual floral pattern, with small pink buttons sewn into the collar. The shape -- or lack thereof -- is what I remember from years ago: flowing skirts and billowing arm holes. But as I guided her arms through the fabric and slipped her gray-haired head through the hole, I realized...

My grandma wears polyester dresses.

I can't remember her in pants. I don't recall her wearing anything other than ballet flats with some kind of bow or tassel on the front. She's always worn hosiery and put her hair in curlers that have a pipe cleaners down the middle.

My grandma's dresses made trips to other laundry rooms without orange water last month, while their owner sat in a care home wheelchair. But now they're home, just like their occupant.

I helped my grandmother get dressed and thought of her dressing me when I was a little girl, guiding my arms into shirts and coats and shoes and dresses.

My grandmother can't do these things for herself anymore, but I am honored to do them for her in the time I have at home.

And I'll carry the memory of touching her polyester rainbow in a drawer for the rest of my life, thinking, in that moment, that the material would someday be a quilt, that my grandmother would be gone then, and that this fierce love I felt for the woman waiting to wear the pink polyester dress would never go away.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at January 10, 2008 4:58 PM | TrackBack

I would like to dedicate this to my grandmother who died today of a stroke. January 15, 2008. I'm so happy to have loved and been loved by you.

Posted by: Amanda at January 15, 2008 9:06 PM

Oh! I'm sorry to hear the news... but what a wonderful tribute.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 15, 2008 10:39 PM
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