I pass mother on my way to the back of the house. She calls out to me, “What are you doing?”
I return and sit beside her on the sofa. “Do you want something, mama?”
She pets my face and tells me, “I was crying a little while ago.”
“You were? Why were you crying?”
“Because I’m dim dim dim dim silly. I’m crazy.” She was having a difficult time getting the thought into words, but finally she managed. She does that, repeats a word or a sound, trying to make her mouth say what she is thinking. Or at least, I think she is thinking. She is trying hard to say something, in any case.
“You’re not crazy, mama,” I answer her. “You’re just a little forgetful. That’s all.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, ma’am. And that’s okay. Because I’ll remember for you.”
“Yes, ma’am. It’ll be okay.”
“And it’ll be this and this and this and this?” mama says, touching my head then hers and mine again, back and forth with each ‘this.’ She is trying to say something. Maybe to say I will remember for her, keep it in my head for her, or maybe something else. I have to guess.
I go for something simple, “Yes, it’ll be our secret.”
Mama nods her head, “Our little secret.”
I always find it surprising when she inserts an adjective like that. I think the adjectives and adverbs might be more abstract, and less comprehensible to her; but sometimes she surprises me with perfectly formed sentences, perfect use of the words.
I nod in return, and mama tells me, “I love you so much. My daughter. My daughter. My precious daughter.” I am comforted that she knows I am her daughter.
I leave her lying on the sofa while I retrieve an album she has stashed between the sofa and the table in the corner. She tells me, “Don’t mess this place up!” She is going to get bossy, I guess.
I say, “I’m not. I’m going to scan some more pictures.”
She follows me into the kitchen and takes her seat. I am browsing through the album, retrieving photos I want to scan.
Mama says to me, “I want to be with you forever.”
“Well, that’s good,” I tell her. “I want you to be with me forever.”
“My precious daughter,” she tells me again.
I am busy, so I don’t answer, but I reach and pat her on the knee in acknowledgment.
“Is this your house?” she asks me.
“Yes, ma’am. This is my house. This is OUR house. We live here.”
“Just me and you?” She is looking around the kitchen, and through the doorway into the livingroom.
“Yes ma’am, me and you.”
“Where are the boys?” She has asked me this before. Again, I don’t know whether she is asking about my boys, her boys, or who knows. I tell her we are the only ones here right now.
She starts singing. “Oh Jesus, I love you. I have faith in thee.”
I don’t know the words, but the tune is familiar. An old, old gospel song; I don’t recall any words, don’t even know if she has the words right. It pricks at my consciousness but remains past my range of recollection, for today anyway. Who will remember for me, I wonder.
Mama leans her head on my back and continues to hum. She asks me, “How come you write and write?”
I tell her, “I’m writing everything you say.”
She tells me, “Yes, I noticed.”
“You did?” I ask incredulously. I turn so I can see her face.
“Yes, I read it.”
I’m staring at her.
“Are you gonna quit now,” she asks me.
“In a while,” I tell her.
“How long is that?” she wants to know.
I quit typing. She says, “Tell her! Tell her! Or I’m gonna go in there and lay on the couch.”
I guess she meant what she said. She gets up, heading for the livingroom, but calls over her shoulder, “Sit still! Sit still!”
I take that to mean I can continue scanning and typing.
Now she is humming again, but this time I recognize the tune: Christmas Times a’Coming.
She rejoins me in the kitchen. I pet her, brushing her hair back from her forehead. She tries to tell me something about her head but I don’t understand her. She asks me, “Where are you going?”
“Yea, I figured that.” she responds.
“You’re gonna have to stay with me,” she tells me.
“What you gonna do in a little bit, my precious girl?”
She doesn’t give up easily.
But she is still amorous. “You know what?” she asks me. “You’re the sweetest sweetest in the world.”
I reward her with the faintest of smiles. “Do you love me?” I ask softly, gazing into her eyes, trying to see behind them. What is still here? What is gone? What does she have yet to hold on to?
She tells me, “I love love you love you love you love you til the day I die. I love you. I love you. I love you. I do love you.”
That was quite a litany, and I am glad I wrote it down so one day I will have it to remember how she knew she loved me when she hardly knew anything at all.
“Til the day you die, mama?” I ask her.
“Til the day I die.”
I am looking at her. Holding her hand.
“Where you wanna go?” she says.
From Monday, Sep. 20, 2004, 2 1/2 years before her death. Continue reading