You Ain't Nothin But A Breeze

My mother and I have never been close.

For a little over a month she shambled around the house in a hospital gown. It was the only thing she was comfortable in because they still had tubes coming out of her from the hospital. Thick plastic making a nuisance of itself. Making her look like a very poor cyborg. Tubes that drain. Probably so that her body doesn't poison itself while trying to heal. Bodies can become angry. Bodies hold grudges against being tampered with. Bodies self-harm.

She couldn't shower for the month so she complained, calmly, quietly, much less that she should be allowed, about how it bothered her that she could not wash her hair. That was the worst part. She would find ways to make her body feel a little cleaner, but there was no way to wash her hair. She couldn't move her body over the sink. She couldn't get the angry tubes wet. Her doctor recommended dry shampoo, but that would only have aggravated the situation with the build-up.

She couldn't raise her arms up for a week. She still can't raise them over her head.

Now I go home almost as often as I did when I first left. My heart ached for familiarity then as it does now. I mourn the time before I knew as much. I am finding that so many people have experienced the fear of losing a parent to cancer. Almost everyone I know has seen one of the figures that towered over them for so long start to wither and show their impermanence.

I'm there so often now I find treasures of my youth. Old writings. Old drawings. Old things. Old teeth my mother keeps in a little plastic heart as though she were the most sentimental of serial killers. CDs, books and cassettes that I no longer credit enough for making me who I am. Markers of a child not quieted by the world. Of a person who felt more capable of being of interest. A girl more willing to smile with all her teeth.

There's a red curtain in the bathroom that spreads the ominous glow of an angry sun through the hallway during the day. The whole house is pale. Eggshell walls, matching door frames, white bed sheets and a cream colored couch. The whole house is sterile, except for the glaring red of the bathroom curtain. A shock meant to warn and disarm anyone who would dare to go past the living room. A furious expression of individuality that allows the house to stand as a metaphor for the duality of my mother. A duality I inherited and made my own unwittingly. We're both calm and boring houses with a mad red streak.

She talks about what she'll leave me when she's gone.

She mentions that my father's mind might be slipping. He wanders. He forgets. He can't remember what he was doing or where he was going. But he's been kinder than I've ever seen him. He does the laundry. He waters her garden. He helps her cut vegetables to cook. There's a tenderness to their time together that they lost after the Tetris game broke. Why Tetris brought them together for a while is something I'll never understand, but they did enjoy playing on the old SNES in front of a TV just as old. They both broke down. Their relationship broke down again. But in their illness they're better. I don't think my father is slipping into dementia, but if it gave my mother a reason to survive that's good enough.


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