She always liked grilled cheese sandwiches, the gooey melt of them, the buttery crustiness. Today, when she bites into the one I just made for her, her mouth turns down. She purses her lips.
"What's the matter?"
"Not hungry?" She's never hungry these days, although she still worries about gaining weight-- the lifetime habit of a beautiful woman.
"It's your favorite," I remind her, pushing the plate closer to the table's edge. She says the sandwich has no flavor. She says it as if she's afraid of being heard.
I take her to lunch at a new place. She's restless and needs to get out, but the unfamiliar surroundings unsettle her. I point out the pictures on the wall similar to the ones in her bedroom, the identical plastic ficus. She hugs herself and looks at the door. When the grilled cheese comes, there's the frown again. The pursing. "No flavor?" Nodding, this time she has tears in her eyes.
We come home to a stack of junk mail. The people who send it seem to know she is ninety, are betting she has Alzheimer's. Orphans, the terminally ill, soldiers, and politicians all scream for donations. Sweepstakes promise her big winnings for small fees. Even the causes she has always supported notice that she has lost track of time, and dun her monthly rather than once in a year. She can no longer write a check, but I find a five dollar bill in a return envelope on top of the stack to be mailed.
"Would you like to go out for lunch?" I ask her a few days later. We have been kept in by thunderstorms, which scare her although she cannot hear the actual thunder. "Let's go to that place..." she begins, and I hope I've guessed correctly when I open the door to the coffee shop, the one she'd take us to after Sunday School and recitals, the place where we'd stop after shopping for new school clothes, our bicycles, a first car, a wedding dress.
When her grilled cheese comes, she tucks into it as if it's the most delicious food she's ever tasted.