Wednesday, June 8, 2011

H is for Holding Hands

Today my mother was tired when I stopped in to visit, to take her downstairs to lunch. And while many a day I will coax and cajole, force her to rouse herself, to rise to the occasion, today I didn't. I let her be.

Do you know why? Because I was tired, too.

So I didn't make her make an effort, make her rise and dress, put in her teeth. I did hand her her hearing aid, however, to make conversation less about shouting and guessing.

And then I laid down beside her on the big, now half-empty bed and held her hand.

And we talked.

About the little things; about everything and nothing.

I told her how we had just this morning measured Ethan, to find he had grown a full half-inch in a month.

She patted her head and mine, proclaimed us both lucky in our luxuriant curly hair.

I talked to her about Jacob. "He's still autistic, isn't he?"

"Oh, yes, that's for certain."

Her eyes soften, wishing there were something she could do, finding nothing. 

"But he's doing well? He's in a good school?"

"Yes, Mom, very well, and a very good school. He wants to see you. I'll bring him by soon."

I haven't brought Jake to see my Mom since I put her cat Willie down last week. For a quite a while before that even, as he was growing quite frail.

Jake loved that cat, will have a hard time with him gone. I'm not ready to handle that. Not yet.

"Haven't found me a man yet, have you?"

"Nope, Mom. They're either too old, too young or too... dull."

She nods in agreement, knows my father will be a hard act to follow. Yet, still, she longs for companionship.

We lay side by side, a short arms reach apart as I know she had lain for 51 years with my father on many a morning and evening (and, in their later, retired and tired years, an afternoon, too) talking about everything and nothing, the easy rhythms of intimacy.

I know this well in my own life, with my husband (though in these frantic years of still young children, our quietly together times are much fewer and farther between) and with my son Ethan who jealously hoards his bedtime talking time with me, needing so much to process his day before releasing it to slumber. (Not an easy sleeper, this one, not at all.)

I held my mothers hand. We talked of this and that, and then we drifted off into sleep; took a little nap, side by side, our fingertips a bridge from daughter to mother.

"I'm going to be 89 soon," she'd said, "Imagine that."

"I can. I do. I'm no spring chicken myself, you know." 

"I plan to make it to 100." Then, shaking her head, "Not likely."

"Why not?" I asked "Why not?'

She smiled.

We napped.

I woke first, slipped my hand from her now lax fingers, stepped into the kitchen to do a little cleaning up after my formerly fastidious mother who now sees no dirt.

Came back to wake her, to say goodbye. (There were groceries to purchase, children to retrieve from schools.)

But first I sat softly on the bed, gently clasped her hand once again, leaned over to gaze at her barely lined, still youthfully smooth face; whispered quietly, beneath the threshold of her dimmed hearing: "Why not, 100? Why not?"

This post has been linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. But, you know, unlike most of my alphabet posts that truly are inspired by jazz-like riffing off a word, I wrote this first (riding the crosstown bus home from my mother's apartment) and then found an "H" word within the post to hang it on. And really, you're lucky, because the other way around? You might have had to read about my "Hell in a Handbasket" week.

I'm also linking this post up to Maxabella's I'm grateful for...  because I am so grateful for this lovely moment with my mother.

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