My mother is resilient. I can always count on her, even at eighty-nine, to have that quick comeback. That wise, intuitive, feral answer to my questions.
Today I visited her. Bringing her lotion. Hairspray. Nail polish. Powder-blue eye shadow…I forgot the face powder. I’ll bring that on Thursday.
She pointed to the black Velcro tennis shoes by the wardrobe. “Take ‘em back.”
“Why Mom? You wanted black sneakers, right?”
I could see her grapple. It was not the Parkinson’s. It was that she didn’t want to upset me. I’d bought them for her. Thought they’d be safe. Easy to take on and off…
“Not sexy, right, Mom?”
I picked up the shoes. Put them back in the box. “It’s fine, Mom. I’ll return them.”
“Beige,” she said. “Looks better with the Velcro, you know?”
“I do, Mom.”
Yesterday, she dropped her television remote control on her leg. I got a call from the Jewish Home For The Aging where she resides. “She’s a bleeder,” they told me. “We’ve bandaged her three times but she’s fine.”
“Does it hurt, Mom?” I asked her today.
We turned to the television news on in her room. At the top of the news - The funeral service for the two Palm Springs officers killed last week.
“Oh, Mom, this is so sad…”
“This world,” she said, “I’ll be dead and I won’t mind leaving this.”
I turned to her. My mother has never talked like this. “Mom?”
“Look at me,” she said. “What’s left? This is it.”
This coming from my mother, the woman always in pursuit of a man, a new piece of gossip, a fresh face of makeup. False eyelashes…
I looked at her hard. Her hair perfectly coifed from the salon below, her elbow resting on the extra pad on her wheelchair, a cacophony of cheap beaded bracelets adorning her wrists. The gaudy chain hanging from her neck.
She pointed to her watch that I had given her last year. “It’s stopped. I need a new…” she groped for the word…
“That’s it,” she said.
“Ok,” I said, looking at the worn watch. “I have a new one at home you can have. Pretty. Rose gold.”
“I can’t have the real stuff here, remember?”
“No worry, Mom, it’s fake, but looks good, trust me.”
The nurse came in to take my mother to lunch. In a cheery voice: “Mrs. MacDougall, it’s time for me to take you to lunch.”
“One more minute,” Mom said. Then, pointed at her bulletin board at the entrance of her room. “Those are my Christmas presents to all of you. I have no money, so this is the best I can do.”
“Mom, these are beautiful!”
“It’s not the Ritz, but what the hell.”
“You didn’t tell me you were painting again?”
My mother’s attention had shifted. “Isn’t he wonderful?” she said, smiling at the male nurse adjusting the footrests on her wheelchair.
She’s back, I thought. Thank heaven for men.
He stood up to wheel Mom out, his dark hair combed neatly to the side. “We love your mother here.”
I swallowed hard, emotions rising. “We do, too…”