As our mother weakens and I am far away, I begin her passage home from here. We can’t say how many days, weeks, or months so I am starting now.  -ML

i

You look

at me

through

the eyes

of a sassy

twenty-one-year-old

in these black and white

portraits of your glory days.

You twinkle

so lively

and alluring.

Your coquettishness

delights me.

I didn’t know you

before you were

our mother

married

and struggling

and then

as a new immigrant

adapting

and lonely.

I didn’t know you

as a woman,

woman-to-woman

to see what

I can see now,

what I know now

about life.

Through your lustrous eyes,

I see a life

I can only imagine.

ii

They phoned me today

that your bedsores

need treatment.

I tell them

to keep you

pain free.

Please.

Your 97-year old

little body

has been slow

to fail

and now

I sense

the closeness

of your next journey.

I hope I can be there for you.

In the meantime,

I will write

love songs.

I imagine

that your heart

and my heart

speak our love

to each other

though I am

far west

to your east,

for I am writing

to your soul

and there

boundaries

are permeable

and unnecessary

and you are close

inside me,

my relationship

with you

personal

private

and only ours –

forever.

This is a liminal time

a time of transition.

We have come

to a threshold.

Let me

carry us

across.

iii

I didn’t know you

before you were

our mother

but you brought

her to me

every day.

Where would

I have been

without your love

of classical music

of singing

of dance

of literature?

You were my hero.

Your calligraphy

so black and crisp

your cartography

each country

delicately filled

with coloured pencils

and sharp boundaries.

Oh, how I stared

at those beautiful

renderings,

each sheet

separated

by tissue paper.

I wanted to be

just like you.

You were artist

business woman

bookkeeper

the one who moved

with elegance

and flamboyance.

You who waited

thirty-three years

and brought

your softest heart

to my birth

to the bond

we formed

when our first

language together

was Spanish.

The woman

who was my hero

for many

childhood years.

She is in me.

Still a hero.

iv

Stories from childhood

are not truths

even though

someone said

our father

made you

quit flamenco

when you got married.

I didn’t like you

saying yes to his no.

 

 

We attach ourselves

to these stories

as if they are facts

but like all events

we spin meaning

and judgment

into them

which is only

always the sign

of who we are.

I don’t like

how as adults

it got too easy

to mock

your foibles

and ugly moments

before we learned

how simply human

you were and later

that you had dementia.

Even the doctors

missed that.

Earlier on

we young adults

naturally had to find

our own way.

Some of yours

were significantly

wrong for me,

made it harder

to be together

before I learned

that you can love someone

and not agree with them at all.

I am sorry for not noticing.

I am sorry for being agitated.

I am sorry for wanting you to be different.

I am sorry for telling you how to be

and wishing you would not be angry

until the same things angered me

and I understood you.

I am sorry for not accepting

the way you were

for all the many reasons

and traumas

that I knew

you had sustained

but could not understand

until I did.

Sobering awareness

that comes

only with time –

if you are willing

and if you get lucky.

v

I was lucky today

when your son

and technology

let me see you

sleeping peacefully

in your bed

across the country.

Your eyes fluttered

when I sang

Que Sera Sera

into your ear

the sounds

of your children

chirping and loving you

right by your bedside.

Sleep gently Mama.

Talk to you soon.

 

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