What I forget
That coming home to my sick mother is like falling off a cliff; I reach in vain for anything to break my fall.
That sometimes the metal taste of blue-white rage will fill my mouth. Why my mother, who spent her life in service to others, volunteering with the poor and the dispossessed? My sister recalls her mortification when Mom, driving her to school, would stop to pick up kids from whom wafted the unmistakeable scent of unpopularity: the shunned, the misfit, the unpopular, the delinquent, even — they were all just kids to her.
That nights with her are spent listening for the rustle of her leaving the bed, seeing her materialize in the room where I sleep. “Where are my shoes?” she asks. “You took my shoes. I need my shoes.”
That the woman whose soiled underwear I wad up in the trash — “No Mom, don’t pull your pants up yet, I need to wipe,” — once held my life within her hands.
That the woman who layers her head in colorful scarves by day and a black one at night once twisted locks of her hair around sponge rollers, then combed it out into gentle waves and sprayed it with AquaNet.
That the woman whose facial muscles are now set in a neutral mask once knew how to smile. It takes effort now to recall the way the tone of her voice and the register of her laughter.
That coming home to her is a hard landing. Every time.