The kitchen smells of honeysuckle when I come in from the barns. The windows are open, a breeze that’s fresh from the hayfield tugging at the curtains. I leave the eggs on the counter and climb the stairs to her room, keeping to the wall where the boards won’t creak and wake her.
She’s sleeping when I come in. Her ash-gray hair is still in the braids we twined together last night, knotted together with ribbons and giggles, whispers and secrets. She knew me last night, knew my name, knew where she was, and why she was here instead of in the nursing home. Some nights she doesn’t remember, but I kiss her thin cheeks and promise that I had a good reason for bringing her home.
The best of reasons.
I arrange the flowers I brought her in the vase by her bedside. Cornflowers and wild roses, daises and a few forget-me-nots for good luck. The colors brighten the pale room, bring some cheerfulness into the white walls, the wood floor. The window is open, and the curtains I sewed especially for her are swaying. Blue. Blue like her eyes, blue like the summer sky over the wheat fields. Blue is her favorite color. That’s one thing she’s never forgotten, not once, not while she lived with my father and I when I was small, not when he sent her to the nursing home with the gray walls and tiled floors, not when I brought her home to stay with me after he died. I’d like blue curtains, she told me, and I bought the fabric for them the same day.
She’s done so much better since I brought her home. She remembers that she likes waffles in the morning, that her husband’s name was Mark, that she loved to dance in the rain when she was young. So many things. So many important details. We sit together in her room after dark, and I light a hundred candles and beg her to tell me her stories. All the things she hasn’t forgotten, all the memories still preserved. It doesn’t really matter if she calls me Rose or Eloise or Bethany. I don’t care. She’s always happy to see me, and she’s always happy to tell me stories. That’s what matters to me.
My father never listened to her. He’d swear at her, calling her names and cursing her for living longer than her daughter and his wife. He drank too much and cursed too much and sent her to a nursing home the first time she forgot his name.
I never forgave him for that, although I know she would have wanted me to. If she remembered it.
I brought her home the day after he died. Neither of us went to the funeral. We were home, sewing blue curtains for her window. She was telling me how good the honeysuckle in the wind smelled, and I was laughing at the blissful way she sat on her window seat and closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of the pastures. She grew up in this house, on this farm. It was wrong to take her from it. She belongs here every bit as much as the honeysuckle and the wild roses.
She’s awake when I look back at her. Her blue eyes have that faded, lost look that she gets when she can’t remember quite where she is, and she gives me a bewildered smile. “Hello, dear. Are those fresh?”
I kiss her cheek, savoring the scent of the lilac perfume we dabbed behind her ears last night. “Fresh from the fields this morning. Do you like them?”
“They’re lovely,” her voice is a little faint, a little weak this morning, but I can still hear last night’s laughter in it. “Especially the forget-me-nots. Do you know, blue is my favorite color?”
I smile and squeeze her fingers very gently. “I know.”