My grandparents are old—in their 90s—and it is too dangerous for them to stay in this place with steep stairways and tiny spaces. So they are going to move in one month.
I realized that I was putting off the visit because I knew that it would be the last time. How do you go someplace like that for the last time? Other memories of places are foggy and I know that I am adding distortions of scale, light, and detail when I recall them. But this place is unchanged and preserved, looking more or less like it did when I was born, when I was 5, 15, 30.
When they move, the sofa and the desk and the side table will go with them. So will the dishes and the lamps and the fragile pieces in the glass cabinet. But the context will change these objects—and without the objects or my grandparents, the house will change, too. The picture window with the view of the lake, the smells, the wallpaper, the knotty pine walls, and the built-in drawers will all stay in place and someone new will move in.
I put off the visit until I couldn’t put it off anymore. We talked in the sunny living room until it was time to say good-bye. I had the painful and frustrating realization that no matter how present you are, no matter how aware of how special a time, a place, a person, or an event is, you can’t ever remember everything or keep it all. I will forget things. I will misremember. I will never be able to revisit this part of myself again.
When I turned the car around in the driveway, I waved to Grandma, who was standing like she always has, at every good-bye, waving in the doorway of the breezeway. I cried and drove away.