“Hand me the lottery tickets please,” Hilda asks one morning.
Hilda has her pre-written, pre-selected, and precious lotto numbers, complete with matching plastic lottery sleeve. She plays THE Florida Lotto, Florida Powerball, Mega Money, Fantasy Five, Play 4 and Cash 3 games, but no scratch offs, thankyou.
The numbers and sheets, which remind me of a standardize test mustn’t fill-in outside the bubble or your test will not be graded answer sheets, had their own special place of importance next to the Capodimonte Anniversary Clock. They are retrieved and handed over.
In the 15 seconds or so between her asking and retrieving, Hilda had perched her glasses upon her nose and seemed to fall asleep. I sit back down and pick up my knitting. I don’t start, I can’t take my eyes off her. She isn’t asleep, she is mumbling, talking and gesturing . I sit and watch as her arms jerk out, straight out in front of her, hands spread open, shoulders shaking and eyes wide, I think of newborns startled awake by a loud noise.
She looks at me and smiles, it’s all in slow motion, I give her the sheets for her lottery numbers. I sit down in the chair next to the bed and knit, every few stitches I look up and she is placing the sheets in rows upon her bed, like a solitaire game. I watch her for the next few minutes, picking up and placing down the same sheet, over and over again.
“Hilda do you want to just tell me the numbers and I will write them down for you?”
Two and a half HOURS later I am knitting in a frenzy, my bamboo needles smoking and although I have three more feet of prayer shawl knit, my nerves are completely frayed.
She hands me the sheets and says, “This it is, here is the seven dollars for the tickets.”
711 the land of cherry slurpies my destination and car keys in hand, directions given, which do not include any left hand turns, as they are too dangerous, and always include driving through parking lots as they are “short cuts” , I leave to retrieve said tickets.
I blanched when the gum snapping cashier says, “That will be 42 dollars,… please.”
Feeling a little daring I use both left turns and actual roads on the way home.
I give her the tickets, and the plastic lotto protect the ticket sleeves, she smiles, and starts playing her bed solitaire again, stacking and reading, and piling. She then turns to me and says,
“Here they are, it will be 7 dollars.”
I was used to the journeys after dark, used to her going away and coming back like some sort of mental traveling tourist. I imagine her going to certain times and places, visiting her life like one who opens up a book to reread favorite passages. The hospice nurse says this is a sorting out of their life, he suggests giving her things to do with her hands, like folding dish towels. She has been a tourist before, but only after dark, and she always came all the way back.
The night tourist excursions came complete with conversations with people seen only by her, laughter and open eyes. Fingers pilling the edges, touching, feeling, rubbing small circles into fabric, soothing, like all my now long grown babies did with their blankets, her fingers too must find comfort in the folds of fabric.
One night she asks for a tartan blanket that covers the back of her chair, Griff hands it to her, she asks,
“Do you have any pins?”
She starts folding the fabric, and ties the ends together in a fringed knot. She motions for him to come closer, he bends to the bed, and Hilda slips the tartan over his shoulders and says,
“There… just like Braveheart.”
Griff asks, “Do you want me to get into bed with you?”
Hilda shakes her head, busy with something unseen on the bed next to her, her hands move bunching up the sheet, and she says, “There I’ve made a nest for you, jump in!”
Now, these trips were happening with eyes open and during the day.
I retrieve dish towels, and with my back to her, I do not want her to see, I unfold them, put them in a big tumbled pile, and ask,
“Hilda would you help me fold these?”
I want her to say, “You just unfolded them!”
She takes the towels ands starts to fold them, and she doesn’t stop until they are all done.
I note the water mark. I pick up my knitting, the shawl almost done now.
This is the day, the day where she started pulling away, the day Hilda took up permanent residence in the somewhere else.
She was no longer a tourist there, she is a tourist here instead.