My Life on a Couch: the fifth

by Em Bowen

In difficult moments, my body remembers to breath. When the wash of whatever is too much comes, I find myself standing still on a sidewalk somewhere, face to the sun or sitting in my grandmother’s parked car 5 min longer than I’d planned on, head on the steering wheel.

I used to hold my breath. Didn’t even realize I was doing it. The sensation was that of missing time. Entireties of seconds absent from memory. I’d remember those moments eventually. Sudden memories. Aisle 9 of the grocery story, like a punch to the stomach. Or waking up in thick sweat in the middle of the night.

My grandmother told my the other day that every night they move her somewhere else. Somewhere off of Bell Road or Grand Avenue in North Phoenix. She says, “I don’t like it because I never know where I’m going to wake up.” I tell her she is in Tucson and she says she knows. She tells me she knows the difference between her imagination and real life.

From left to right: my mother, my aunt (deceased), my grandmother, my grandmother’s second husband (deceased).

Vascular dementia is the result of brain damage from a stroke. It’s mostly likely why my grandmother has started to walk through worlds despite being sharp in all other ways. There’s not enough oxygen now so she’s missing time. She is so thin now. It’s hard to look at it. How else to say it—there is no other way.

I keep breathing because I can feel a weight want to keep me in bed too. And I’ve spent so much time on my feet over the past many years. I’ve figured out so much and resisted anguish. I’ve kept my neck up. I’ve lived. I’ve been better to people. I haven’t been depressed. My life is full of more adoration, more goodness, more love than ever and my grief is trickling from the most common of sources: heartbreak, dying, the experience of having a body.

I’m finding no amount of reasoning, no amount of sleep or healthful chemical levels or meditation or exercise can ward off some sadness.

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