My car knows the route so well, I barely have to intervene.
How will I get to my assigned parking place today? Often I take different paths in order to mix things up a bit. Anything to break up the monotonous routine.
By the way: The parking spot isn't really assigned-I just like to think so. And I grouse whenever someone else uses it.
Ever polite, I nod to those I pass. I wonder about their story but often the details are written on their faces. Some frozen with shock, others saddened by resignation, occasional sobbing. I am familiar with it all-I too have lived it.
A myriad of hallways escort me to my destination yet there is no escaping the dreaded bulletin board. Despite the pain it usually brings, the draw is too strong to be ignored. One list names the recent arrivals, many whom I recognize since it's a small town.
I hold my breath and give cursory attention to the other list, hoping no one familiar appears there. In Memoriam...
For once, no names. It is a good day.
Soon I stroll into her room, noting that nothing has changed since yesterday. While I'm a lover of routine, this particular one has unnerved even me. I reach down to kiss her forehead and ask how she is.
"'Bout the same."
The usual response.
We chit chat a little. Often it is a struggle to fill the empty minutes. Usually I click through my mind enroute, desperately trying to come up with something to talk about. I share tidbits from work that she doesn't understand and silly things my pets have done. Of course, the weather is a faithful standby. Not that it makes any difference: She won't leave her room and has no interest in anything outside it.
The nursing home, specifically a ten by twelve area, has become her world. By choice, she came here two years ago to will herself to die. Much to her distress, it has not happened yet.
I've processed all the stages of grief that the experts say I should. While they may be geared more toward a suffered loss, the way I see it, I'm already there. My sisters and I have spent the last several years trying to assure her that there were other options. She couldn't-or wouldn't-see them. Maybe in her stubbornness, she didn't want to. It's irrelevant. I have grieved.
Not just the loss of my mom but the pain and anger of her unwillingness to try. I've lost respect, acted out in anger, and after a final spectacular meltdown, finally moved into acceptance, grudgingly agreeing that she had the right to make choices I didn't agree with but could do absolutely nothing about.
So I come. It's the right thing to do.
I situate myself on the bed for the longest twenty minutes of my day. Sometimes we watch television. Chat about the family. Admire the latest bouquet of flowers I've brought. I can always kill a few minutes fussing over them but it passes quickly.
The best days? To see her eyes light up when I hand her something I've written.
I could go into all the psychobabble about the support of our parents, how I felt unloved as a child, and the many hoops I've jumped through over the years in order to gain approval. I've certainly tried everything and for the most part, had little success. Since my father is no longer with us, I've been able to put my issues with him to rest. My mother and I have reversed roles and settled into a comfortable waiting. It is a relationship without a lot of depth yet contains a sweet simplicity.
It took many months for me to muster up the courage to tell her that I was a writer. Predictably, at first she was skeptical and somewhat negative but as time passed, she became enthusiastic and supportive-to the point of getting after me if I don't spend enough time at my craft.
So I hand her my offering and wait. She takes a long time to read the short article, crippled hand shaking in a bird-like clutch. At last she finishes and looks up at me.
"That was cute."
No editor, publisher, or critic could ever give higher praise. I need nothing more.
And I will be back tomorrow.
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