Today Tracy and I told stories over Mom – somehow, we got to talking about Christmas, and I told her stories she didn’t remember, about Christmas in Arizona before the drought, with giant geese chasing me around the pond, Grandpa taking me out at night to hold newly hatched baby ducklings, my brother and his bad eyesight mistaking a cactus for my grandfather, with disasterous results.
Mom smiled and held our hands.
I don’t know what’s harder – talking to her when she starts talking about needing to get up and leave, to walk, or saying she can’t go and telling her she can, or saying goodnight to her in the evening, knowing this might be the last night I hold her hands between mine, feel them pressed against my cheek, smell her scent – still so strongly her, even through all of this – the last time I will kiss her cheek, run my hands through her hair, say “I love you” and see the small twitch of smile of her lips, the most she can muster in acknowledging hearing me.
This afternoon she told Tracy and I we needed to help her get up, she had to walk away, and Tracy told her we couldn’t help her with that, she had to do it on her own. Mom asked where she was going, and Tracy told her somewhere better, that she would be in heaven watching over us. Mom was straining to lean forward, grasping hard to both of our hands, and Tracy just kept reassuring her that it was okay, we would be okay, Mom would be okay, and it was fine to go. That Mom needs to do what’s best for her, we all want her to be comfortable, and we know she’ll be there, always watching over us.
I took over running my spare hand through Mom’s hair and told her Tracy was right, and it was okay to go if she wanted to, and we would be okay, and take care of each other, and that Tracy and I had already made a pact to make sure we both remember to eat. And I told her that since she’ll be watching over us, that my house will be cleaner than it’s ever been – I’ll even have to scrub behind the toilet, since she’ll be able to see it all. And my clothes will always be washed and folded. Once more, I was rewarded – she gave me a beautiful smile, a smile that might very well be the last I ever receive.