She sees me approaching and quickly turns her attention to the coloring book. The new crayons I brought yesterday are within her reach.
“So, what’s this?” I ask.
She lifts the box of crayons, “I got new crayons yesterday. I like when they’re new because they’re pointy. It’s easier to stay inside the lines when the crayons are new.”
“That’s very pretty,” I whisper as I pull an empty chair from the table; I bend to kiss the top of her head. Baby shampoo, I think, and sit alongside her.
She exhales deeply, “This is my job. Today I have two pages.”
I nod my head in agreement. My eyes won’t turn away from her. She is deeply absorbed in her job, her brow slightly furrowed.
She continues with the yellow crayon, “Yellow is for the sun.” In case I didn’t know this, now I do.
I pick up the box of eight crayons – most of which have already lost their points; and make a mental note to purchase a larger box with more colors and maybe a sharpener. “Yes, and red is for the flower,” I speak softly.
“Red. Red is for flowers.” She carefully places the yellow crayon into the box and extracts the red one.
“What about the blue one?” I ask. The blue crayon is pointed, not yet used. Would she remember blue is my favorite color? I prod, “What is blue for?”
Silence. She works the red within the lines of the flower petals. It’s a beginner’s coloring book with large, easy prints. Some of the pages are missing, but it doesn’t matter.
“Green is for grass.” She takes the crayon and fills in the blades of grass strung along the bottom of the page. “Oops!” It snaps in half under her tight grip. “That’s okay,” she grins. “There’s only a little bit of grass.”
We giggle. Not the deep belly laughs of days before. I loved those laughs.
She slides the two pieces of green crayon into the box.
“Tomorrow I’ll bring you a new green one, a pointed green,” I promise.
“Okay,” she says, satisfied. “See my house?”
A dog-eared page is to her left on the table. Its rough tear marks indicate a hasty extraction from a more advanced coloring book. The red and brown blend together. I am guessing that the colors represent the brick of her house. A brown and green tree, decorated with red dots, stands beneath an uncolored sky. Yellow lines stretch out from a bright yellow sun.
I’m holding the blue crayon. “Do you like the blue one?” I persist waving the crayon in front of her.
“Black is for dirt,” She replies as she pulls the black crayon out of the box.
“Yes, black is for dirt.” The ticking clock above the bookcase echoes in the nearly empty activity room. Far away chatter is muffled.
She inspects the box, “Orange is tricky. You don’t use orange much.”
“Orange could be for a pumpkin,” I offer, almost excitedly, although not expecting a reply.
A bell rings in the distance; and apron wearing staff approach appear from a swinging door at the back of the room.
“Oh,” she says, and quickly closes her coloring book. “It’s time to wash for dinner.” She takes the blue crayon from my hand, now still on the table top. “You have to go. Tonight’s guest will be Frank Sinatra. This is the best resort ever.”
I rise, “Okay, Auntie Heley, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She touches my arm and smiles. Our eyes meet for an instant. Her frail fingers bring a flood of memories. For a moment I want to believe she knows who I am. I kiss her forehead and turn toward the entrance foyer.
“Blue.” My favorite aunt says confidently, “Blue is for beautiful. It always reminds me of you, Judy.”