In the chair at the desk in the corner of the kitchen, she opened the small drawer, top-right, and took out the purple felt bag. We told time by this ritual, 3:00 pm, after hours of coffee and medications and a whole package of duMarier Lights had eased her, finally, into a grim comfort.
The bag, which had held a bottle of Crown Royal years before, clattered with its current contents, which she laid out in a row on a small rug at her feet. Marbles, we thought, but knew better than to play with them, in their many sizes and colours. A clock in the next room ticked steadily and bonged in fifteen-minute increments, between which she picked up a marble, put it back down, picked up the next, with her toes. One foot first – bong – then the other – bong – then the clink and clack of the bag growing heavy again, placed back into the drawer.
“Bad circulation”, the adults said when we asked why our grandmother played footsies with marbles. I don’t remember her moving except for slowly, stepping on unsteady feet, but her closet told of another grandmother – one I hadn’t met. Her collection of high-heeled shoes was extravagant and bittersweet, I having outgrown the dainty treasures by twelve years old.
Though her ankles and feet were dark purple, gnarled, bruised, too thick to be mobile despite her bird-thin body, I remember her on the move. Not quickly, not gracefully, but roaming always, in her garden. Hobbling, crouching, kneeling to weed and prune, stake up daffodils, dead-head geraniums, pick bugs one by one with manicured fingernails from the undersides of tiger lily petals.