She used to sing “Go to sleep, my little buckaroo” to my son when he was little, and then they’d sing The Lord’s Prayer together. He could mimic her voice perfectly by the time he was four—every nuance and inflection, and even her rich vibrato. Hers was his first singing voice. Now he has his own, rich and warm with a melting vibrato.

He lifts her out of her chair and back into bed.

“Ooooh!” she says, squeezing his biceps and smiling. “Big muscles!”

She loved my dad’s muscles, too, back when he was a dark, wavy-haired medical intern and she was a blond nursing student with a beautiful smile. He ended up sick in the hospital, and she was tasked with giving him bed baths. The perfect recipe for romance.

Her grandchildren are the legacy of those romantic encounters. After a wedding in the Wee Kirk ‘o the Heather at Forest Lawn, they were off to Tanana, Alaska, where he traveled by dog sled or piloted his own ski plane to remote villages to deliver babies or treat victims mauled by bears.

He needed his muscles there. She needed courage with two toddlers in tow and another on the way. Relics from those adventures now decorate my walls.

Their adventures together took them around the world. He’s been gone for twelve years now. She struggles to make it around the room.

“You used to come and talk to me,” she tells my son, who is still leaning over her and staring intently into her face. Their long conversations while she gently rubs his head with her rough fingers don’t happen quite as often now that life and school have set in for him.

“Can I make you more comfortable?” he asks, bending close to hug her.

“Mmmm,” she says. “You smell nice.”

We all laugh. She stares at us as if we’ve lost our minds.

“What are you all doing out in the middle of the night?” she scowls disapprovingly.

“Just saying goodnight,” I say. “We’re going home to bed.”

“Good. Will you come again tomorrow? To see me? For a little bit?”

Her voice trails off. She’s afraid to hope.

“Yes, Momma. We’ll come again tomorrow.”