Doors, doorways; ways in or out: the door to my grandmother’s room was shut. My father knocked, twisted the knob. We entered behind him, and found her seated in her chair, wearing a pink comforter and a pair of white shoes my father knelt and squeezed when she complained of cold legs. Bruises like plums pressed the waxy skin over her wrists like tiny treats she’d saved for later.

Her slowness, like patience, revealed the rows she had to hoe through to find words to respond to our words. Her face was her same face but stilled, polished, as though it had been drawn. And it had been drawn, in charcoal. The artist rendering hung on the wall below the photos and Christmas cards my father’d brought from home—signs of those she’d most cared for but’d lost like she’d lost her words: among rows growing thicker, thicker, like steps rather than furrows, impediments she struggled to climb, dead ends sending her back the way she’d come, empty-handed and blanched.

Her slippers lay on the closet floor. He seemed so relieved — finally, something he went looking for and found, unlike her dishes from home, which he believed had been removed, washed, stacked on some shelf then forgotten during a shift change.

Small miracle: her yellow speckled plastic cup was where he’d left it, too. He rinsed it, then rinsed it again, and again, then filled it. Held the rim to her lips. Asked whether cool water tasted good.

By the time we’d helped her up and my father’d guided her to the hall, I’d gotten her to color in the little doors on a page in a coloring tab left for her by a cousin of mine some time ago. A magic marker revealed Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse and several others standing inside each of five arched, ovular doorways the tablet’s artist had adorned with pieces meant to lead us colorers to the character we colored to life one marker stroke at a time. She’d been reluctant to color at first, had taken the pen by the base rather than near its nib and colored in wide strokes, often retracing shapes of characters she’d already revealed.

I felt a little like I’d reached her, but also as though I’d treated her child-like. The tablet was meant for children; only children would find its magic joyous, enlivening. Revealing characters already drawn but hiding within the whiteness of a clean page may have been a silly thing to do. But there’s no denying she kept drawing on the page, opening doors a little wider with each swipe. Maybe she was able finally to remember that she shared her birthday with Mickey Mouse. Maybe it felt good to bring a thing back when so much of her past had lapsed into a similar whiteness.

Image credit: Stephen Di Donato via Unsplash

I write here and at

Like what you read? Give Patrick Faller a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.