My mother sits quietly twisting the corners of her robe between her fingers. She is as intent on this as she is on what I’m saying, although both must be carefully considered, together and separately. The fabric is uneven; soft, curious, like those around her. Like the one who sits holding the fingers of her other hand; trembling slightly in mine as though seeking their own comfort. Or familiar robe hem. I should let them go, but won’t.
She smiles at my face, acknowledging. “I love you, too.” She says. And I am 8 years old again, timidly holding wilted tulips and a crayon drawing. We are all smiling, my sisters and I; our parents standing together before a large windowed house with an even larger sun beaming down; its lemon wax rays stretching across the heavens against a blinding aqua sky. We complement one another; our mouths turned into identical U shapes as though we are all thinking and remembering the same things. I hadn’t known I was wrong about that even then, when it might have been true.
There is a long window on the far wall of her room, although she rarely asks what is beyond the dusty pleated drapes that frame it. I would not have drawn this window. She looks through me and towards the rhythmic music spotting the glass. I tell her it’s raining. She is surprised by this; even alarmed, until I assure her that it’s all right. “We needed the rain, Mama.” I tell her. “It’s a good rain.” She smiles, and nods, accepting.
I stand now, and stare out, feeling her eyes on my back. What do you see when you look at me, Mama? Am I like the rain? Do I come unexpectedly and blot out the sun? Or am I a sweet relief to these parched and empty days that pass for your life here in this room? I watch her considering the lines on my face like a small child, and dread the questions she must have. At times I am grown, and a mother; even a friend. I believe she is proud of me now, or satisfied. She wants to remember me to those who come into the room. I want her to remember the tulips and drawings, and not the rebellious teen slamming doors or stomping through the house in a rage. “I hate you!” I told her once. And meant it.
She is saying something to me now; soft and quiet, and I have not heard it. My mind has been on my car, and the road, and how far away it will take me, away from here; these walls. I have nothing more to say. I have more to say than I could ever finish, were I to sit beside her until the rain turned to morning and then to evening again. She tried to give me her courage; wishes to give it to me now, when I long to have my mother back and long to run away from her just the same. I know that she sees these thoughts and understands them, even now, when the very sound of rainfall is confusing and dark.
I think if I just stayed a moment longer; held her hands until she fell asleep or they told me to go. Just another minute more; another quiet moment between us; maybe this would cover the sharp and cutting words that I could never get back. Or the ones we never spoke, but should have.
But I am walking already, although I can still feel her slight and fragile shoulders in my hands as I held her, thinking she would break, or that our hearts would. I promise to be back, carefully closing the door, but hearing the long ago slam instead, when I had left her there alone, to remember.
Cold now, and wet, I am certain she must be watching; worrying and scolding that I would forget my umbrella on such a damp and frigid day.
But there is no furrowed brow staring back from her window; no sweet look of concern or worry…. only the jerking motion of closing drapes as they prepare her room for sleeping. She is safe now, and warm, and dry.
The wipers drag and squeak, purging the way before me as I go.
The sun is still there, I know this; waxy lemon yellow and rays stretching warm and eternal into my window and hers.
It’s a good rain, Mama. I tell her. It’s a very good rain.
“Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” ~ Isaiah 60:20
Karen is the wife of a TV weather guy and the mother of 2 beautiful sons. The joy of The Lord is her strength, His presence in the middle places of life her overwhelming delight.