My nose and mouth are hidden by a flowery purple print, fabric better suited for a spring tea than to be saturated with dampness on this hot summer day. The cloth tastes salty if I lick it, fresh residue from sweat, tears and snot.
If it’s a day you are in bed, I stand outside your window. I’m thankful the screen is ajar, bringing to you sounds from outside. Such little things for which we are thankful now, long months of isolation teaching us we should feel lucky for at least this. This small thing.
The screen mesh reminds me of the monkey you let Andy get once. I know, you were embarrassed looking back later to have allowed this Willamette Valley kid of yours to have a monkey for a pet. But, still, do you remember those grasshoppers stuck between the screen and the window on those hot days of summer, sucked up by this odd primate vacuum cleaner? I remember that story, Mama, but I won’t test you to see if you still do. We can laugh anyway.
Do you remember this song, Mama?
Yes, that’s okay. Close your eyes and rest, Dear Mama.
Listen, and I’ll sing along. I know you recognize my voice even if you can’t clearly see me, the days I am behind the screen. The Me behind this screen. The one who tells you she is your Favorite Daughter. The one who each time reminds you that you are her Favorite Mother, and would be the Favorite still if she had fifty. Mothers that is. Today when I told you, lucky we were to be outside, you told me, “That’s too much.” At least you smiled.
Beyond this screen.
You know I’d come inside if I could, those days you don’t get up. I know you do.
You look comfortable and peaceful in bed. I’m glad. And when you close your eyes, you nod to tell me you could hear the songs. I’m relieved you probably can’t hear my voice waver. Good thing I can’t remember all the words, as it’s easier to hum than sing when you’re choked up.
Today I asked you if you ever dream about Dad. A day you did get out of bed, and I wheeled you to the park. When you are able to come outside, I can hold your hand, and rub your shoulders. And get near your face, even if they don’t think I should. I want to yell, I would never harm my mother.
Your eyes stay closed for awhile and your grip was gentle, almost not there, but I willed myself to believe you knew it was me clasping yours, even when your eyes were closed. Your skin is so dry, I held it lightly, not wanting to cause pain. My hand freshly sanitized. Those things we do. Now.
I said, “Remember my dad – your Dick? You know, the one who would say to you, You’re Quite a Tomato?”
Your eyes were open then and you laughed out loud, but not very loud. What I’ll do to work for another guffaw or giggle! So I continued, “You know the guy, the one who always boasted he had married the smartest one, the top of her class. And how lucky he was, a guy who was happy just to graduate earning Cees.”
You smiled again. How I love your smiles.
What I’ll do for another smile.
Yesterday at the window you said you could see me, but I think it’s mostly my voice you recognized.
Muffled while swaddled in my mask.
I turn on my phone to search for our favorite songs of late.
I sing along and only I can hear my voice as it cracks, this voice sucked up by a flowery mask filled with tears and memories.
Remember this one Mom? I play it every time I see you now. Some days you sing along. But not today.
And I will sing this song
Why don’t you sing along.
And we will sing for a long long time.
Yes, you’ve been a warrior. Most everyone around you knew you as one, bold with all that you’ve done in this rich life you’ve led.
Only a few of us, the closest ones, knew you were a scared warrior. Sometimes. Or did that only happen early, coming back so late in this life?
Come to your life like a warrior.
Nothing will bore you, you will be happy.
Love of my life
I am crying
I am not dying
I am dancing
Dancing along in the madness
There is no sadness
Only a song of the soul.*
And we will sing tomorrow, Mom. And the next day and the next.
And one day when I sing, I will sing to remember you.
But now, I sing at your window.
As you lie resting.
*lyrics above from Song of the Soul, Cris Williamson