“Just Let Me Go”

I saw Aunt Mary on Sunday.

I sat on the edge of her bed in the nursing home, next to the wheelchair she has to ride in, despite the fact she can hold up her own feet when someone is pushing it.

Half the time, her head was bent down against her chest, her eyes open, but looking as if she didn’t want anyone to look at her, like she was ashamed or scared.

She didn’t know who I was, but I was okay with that. I didn’t expect her to remember me. She didn’t remember anyone, not even the nurses she sees every day.

I gave her a peanut butter cup. She asked if she could have two. I told her she could have as many as she wanted. Less than a month shy of 93-years-old and with all her original teeth, she’s earned the right to eat as much candy as she can stomach.

She asked about her kitty. She asked where her parents were. It seemed like she was slipping back in time.┬áThen, she said, “I’ll see them,” and it was more like she was slipping forward.

I got a smile out of her when I reminded her that we used to play as partners in euchre sometimes, and again when she asked what my dad was doing over there and I told her he was leaning against the wall, trying to look like a movie star.

Most of the time, though, she was just confused. She kept saying, “I don’t understand anything that’s going on.” I said I didn’t understand most of what was going on either, and meant it.

Then she said, “Just let me go.”

She didn’t know me, but she knew enough to know I am still hanging on. As I have all my life. As I always will.

A few years ago, my sister made Aunt Mary get legal documents drawn up, because Aunt Mary wanted all life-saving efforts made to keep her alive and my sister didn’t want to make those decisions for her.

Now, Aunt Mary is ready to go.

Every god knows, I don’t want her gone, but I’m not sure any of us are supposed to outlive our memories or our desire to live.

When we said we were going to leave, Aunt Mary said, “Not yet.” So, we stayed a while longer. But eventually we did leave, because we all have to leave sometime.

Before we were out in the hall, though, when I was talking to Aunt Mary in near-confidence, she said to me, “I don’t like the way things are going. Do you?”

“Not always,” I answered honestly.

For a second, she sat there thinking, shaking her head as if neither of us had any hope at all. Then, she looked me right in the eye and said, “It’s going to be all right, I think.”

And I really don’t know, but I’d like to think so too.

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