She packed the last bag into my car
we went back inside where she put the kettle on
held the string so the bag didn’t fall in
She sat down at her usual spot at the head of the table
I took my spot to her left
As the tea steeped, we talked about the usual things
and worked on the daily crossword in the paper

She opened a bottle of Avon hand lotion
a reminder of her decades on the assembly line
She worked the lotion through her arthritic hands

Her fingers were always soft on my face
her hands held my head in place when she kissed me on the cheek
then wrapped her arms around me
The hugs were warm and neither of us wanted to say goodbye
She held me tight and I felt safe

Gram got up to get her tea, squeezed the bag, tossed it away,
a dollop of milk for the perfect brew
I grabbed the water jug from her fridge
filled the aluminum cup like I’ve done thousands of times before
we rejoined around the table, talked about the world
as we watch the steam from her cup rise toward the ceiling

When the drinks were done, we knew I had to go
neither of us wanted to leave
we talked some more while sipping on cold tea and warm water
always wishing we had more time

There was a long sigh and a “whelp”
She wrapped her arms around me
a warm hug held me tightly in place
neither of us wanted to say goodbye
I rested my head on her shoulder
I didn’t want to let go
an extra tight squeeze, a light tap on my back
the moment would soon be over

“I’ll see you later,” she said as she shoved a Benjamin in my pocket
a dance we’d performed a dozen times before

I got in my car, put my seat belt on
“Be good,” she said. “Don’t drive too fast.”
Twenty-one hours later, I’d let her know I had arrived home
Exhausted and sleepy, I’d talk to her for another hour

She’s been gone ten years and I can’t pick up the phone
I can still smell her lotion
I hear her voice in the recesses of my mind
If I close my eyes, I can feel her warm embrace

She’s the only grandma I ever knew
and I think about her all the time

I squeeze the bag in my favorite teacup
watch the steam rise into the air
I close my eyes, the conversations come rushing in
and the hugs sometimes too tight to bear
I smile and try to be good
but I still can’t seem to drive slow