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Fiction American

The old weathered bench in the backyard of my grandmother had been there as long as I can remember. I remember playing hide and seek with my sister and cousins with me hiding under the bench curled up in a ball thinking I had become invisible and nobody could see me. I imagine that is the feeling that my mom feels now, invisible. I sat down on the bench and gazed up at the tall plum tree that was right in front of the bench. My grandmother hated that tree. She hated it mostly because the plums would fall on the ground and we would trample over them running around in the yard. She also hated that tree because her grandkids would climb it almost to the top to get the very best plums. She would look out of the window and bang and scream that we needed to come down from the tree’s high branches. As I look at that tree now I notice all the ripe plums and golden burgundy leaves falling to the ground. I give the leaves names as I did when I was little. Courage, strength, wisdom, mother, father, daughter, sister, friend, lover, traveler, woman, compassionate, friendly, and older. One by one the leaves dropped to the ground and I was all of those things but on this particular day I was only one thing. I was my mother’s daughter. 

When I was growing up I always thought my mom was too strict and never let me do anything I wanted to do or go where I wanted to go. I thought she hated every one of my boyfriends and even some of my friends. Not that I had an abundance of either but my mom never seemed to like most of them. She never said I love you growing up. She always said that she cared. She would say, “If I didn’t care about you I would let you do what you want. I am only doing this because I care about you.” I never understood back then why she just didn’t say love like I heard my other friends' parents say to their children. Today I know that care met love the same as love to her. When she said she cared she said she loved. She loved us hard and fierce. She made my sister and I the tough, fierce, strong women that we are today. We definitely know how to take care of ourselves and that is because of her. She had to take care of us and herself when our dad passed away suddenly.  Our world changed June 4th, 1978. Then the world for all of us changed again over 40 years later.

On a cool August day my mother decided to take a walk. It was uncommon for her to take walks. She was not much of a walker. She would always drive before she would walk. She grabbed her coat and purse and off she went down the steps of our apartment and started walking. She came back from her walk that day and looked a little flush but that was about all that was different. A few hours later the paramedics were at our front door. She has suffered a mild stroke. The hospital stay was hard for her. She had never been away from her family in the hospital except when she had her children. If home births were popular back then she would have probably had us at home. She came home a few days later and the parade of people who were her care team followed. She had many people, nurses, therapists, and family coming to check on her daily. She recovered. 

The next ten years felt like a blur. They went by fast. My mom recovered from her stroke and basically was almost back to her normal with the assistance of a walker now but the old mom who told everyone what to do was back. My son grew up more during that time and she told me what I was doing right and wrong with raising him as a single parent. I listened. I listened hard not knowing what was coming next.

Changes were coming. I watched my mom change just a little every day. Some days she wouldn’t remember where she put her keys, other days she couldn’t remember what she had for dinner the night before. Some random doctor told me what she was experiencing but I knew. I knew because I had seen it before with my grandmother. The thief of memories had come for my mother. I didn’t want it to be true. I cursed and screamed in my head and asked why her? Why her? Just why? 

Almost as quickly as the wrinkles filled her once smooth face the memories started to fade for her. First her short term memories and then eventually the long term memories. Each passing day I soaked in everything she told me whether it made sense or not. I cherished hearing her voice and every day that she actually spoke my name. Now, her voice is trapped inside of her somewhere. The voice that I thought was so irritating when I was a teenager I would give anything to hear now. I would love for her to tell me what to do now. I would love for her feet to work so she could go on those walks. I would love to see her standing in the kitchen cooking dinner and putting salsa in things that salsa should not go in. I would love for her to take us on one last Sunday drive to my uncle’s house and sit and listen to them talk for hours about nothing I was interested in.  All of their talks about the “good old days” that made me roll my eyes and leave the room. I miss that. I miss her. 

As she sits now in her chair and stares at the TV or sometimes at me or my sister I wonder what is going through her head. I wonder if she feels the same way I do and wishes she could stand at the kitchen sink again and wash dishes and complain to us all the while. I am sure she does in a way miss the little things that at the time didn’t mean much but now mean everything. I look into her eyes as I am feeding her or changing her clothes and I search for any remnants of my mom’s old self. I am looking for any piece of her that was once there. In my head there is a constant movie playing about all the memories we shared over the last 40 plus years. I laugh when I think of them and smile and even talk to her about some of them while reminding her that she actually likes sweet potatoes which I am trying to feed her and that water she hates to drink is good for her and sometimes she will even smile. I miss those smiles and laughs and most of all I miss her voice.

November 04, 2021 16:13

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