Seven Minutes

          The clock in my Grandma's room is seven minutes fast. I notice the incorrect time almost immediately when I come to visit, checking it against my watch as I greet her from the doorway. It bothers me to see the second hand pulling the minute hand so far ahead, as if bullying it into moving forward before it's ready. I remind myself I only have 42 minutes before I need to catch my flight back to Los Angeles and to adjust for those imaginary seven minutes that the clock is trying to steal from me.

          There is something about being away from home that always seems to speed up time. The plants in the front yard are browning at the tips and the ratty dining room chairs have been replaced with new furniture. My Grandma's bedroom has been rearranged again and she is wearing a floral t-shirt that I've never seen before. Her single twin bed, once positioned in the corner of the room, has been rolled to the center and now has the best view of Moanalua Valley.

          "Hi Kristel," she smiles slowly. Her bed is positioned so she is sitting up and yet somehow she seems smaller. Her hands are folded in her lap and her legs are covered with a blanket I recognize from my childhood sleepovers at her house.

          "You're going to eat lunch soon," I tell her, pulling up a chair next to her. "I think that's what the nurse said. Something yummy?"

          I wait for an answer, but it never comes. She just stares out the big picture window and I wonder what she's thinking about. I lean over and stroke her straight white hair lovingly, remembering how she had perfectly curled, short chestnut hair until she was well into her mid-eighties. Sometimes I'd take her to her weekly hair appointments and thumb through gossip magazines as the woman shaped her hair into perfect, single looped curls.

          "They pulverize it," she finally answers.

          "Pulverize what?" I ask. "Oh, the food?"

          "Yeah," she laughs quietly. "All taste the same."

          Her response catches me off guard, so I laugh open-mouthed and loud. It fills the quiet room and makes my Grandma smile.

          It's strange not to hear a television in the background or see my Grandma with her portable radio in hand. Early afternoons were normally reserved for Bonanza or talk radio, but all I hear now are the trees.

          "You want to listen to some music?" I ask. "I'll play you something on my phone. Who's that guy you like? Englebert Humpty Dumpty?"

          "Humperdinck," she corrects me. "I like him."

          "Okay, then let's listen to some of his stuff together." I text my mother and ask for recommendations. She suggests "Release Me," so I search YouTube and play the first version I find.

          The song starts with an unfamiliar string arrangement, so I can't tell if I'm playing the right song, but her face lights up when Englebert's swooping voice introduces the verse. I see the corners of her mouth pull upwards slowly into a familiar smile and her eyes are filled with so much joy that mine begin to burn with tears.

          "Mom said that Grandpa used to sing this song to you when he was drunk. Do you remember?"

          The trees sway in Moanalua Valley as Englebert croons the chorus without an answer from her. The wind sings as if it's accompanying the orchestra and soon it's the only thing we can hear.

          "I like that," she answers, long after the song has finished. "It's pretty."

          I smile. "Yeah, it's nice, huh."

          I hold her hand and we watch the traffic from the freeway off in the distance, moving across her picture window in a thick dotted line. She taps her index finger against the top of my hand in a slow rhythm and I know she's elsewhere again. I want to ask her about so many things I don't know, like what she's daydreaming about and where those seven minutes that belong only to us are hiding, but instead I find myself willing the second hand of the clock backwards.

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