We were in the process of haggling over which desserts she should order when the seizure hit. My grandmother’s face went ash-pale, and she dropped the menu with which she’d been fanning herself. Both of her hands were placed palms-down on the table, and she seemed to focus on a point in the distance. Mom called Dad over — he took hold of my grandmother’s arm, placed his other hand on her shoulder. Began steadily, insistently saying her name over and over, as though calling a child in from the rain.
I couldn’t help but notice how small her arm looked, how easily Dad’s fingers encircled it. Those arms once reached down to lift me up out of my playpen, and set me down next to a box of toys. They once lifted me up to sit on the kitchen counter as she slid a batch of gingerpuffs into the oven. They once shooed me away from a bowl of cake batter with a flick of her apron, a flurry of green and white that framed her wry smile. They once offered a fistful of cracked corn to me in her soft, gnarled hand, which I’d then scatter throughout her henhouse; as the chickens swooped down to snap up the feed in a flurry of feathers and clucking, she’d smile as I clapped and shrieked with delight. They once wrapped around me, as she read my favorite book — The Little Engine That Could — with as much patience after my sixth request as my first.
When the ambulance came, she’d more or less returned to normal. She even tried to wave off the EMTs as though they were just kids, laughing underfoot in her kitchen; somehow we managed to talk her into taking the ride to the hospital. After a few hours of tests, the doctors found nothing, and sent her home; by the end of the weekend, she was lunching with her girlfriends and tsk-tsking about
that nonsense that happened yesterday.
But as I remembered how small her hands looked in my father’s, I couldn’t keep mine from shaking.