Saturday, August 31, 2013

So That It Repeats, Indefinitely

Hitting play, replay, so this repeats indefinitely.

With a grateful heart, to my sister, Adriana Rosas, for this gift beyond measure.

Thank you.

* * *

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Introduction to the Skylanders Franchise -- By a Kid of the Parents Who Don't Even Know What's Going On

I am writing this today because my mom is resting. I'm going to write four of these. This is the first one about my favorite game Skylanders. Oh, this is Auggie, or Baby E, or whatever you like to call me. I write it on openoffice writer and then put it here. This is part one. I am going to write part two and three and four.
* * *

Skylanders Spyro's Adventure (Part 1 of 4)

An Introduction to the Skylanders Franchise

This is about the first game. This picture is of the portal and three figures and the game. The figures are small. There is a sequel called Skylanders Giants where the figures are bigger and I won't tell you more because it's a secret.

Skylanders is a video game where you purchase figurines, and then bring them to life in the game when you put them on the portal. When they come to life is my favorite part. You put the figure on the circle and then they show up on your screen. What I like about it right away is because it's a video game. You can play it on all the systems but you have to buy the game that goes with the system. Like Wii or Xbox 360, or 3DS, or PS3.

In the first game there are 32 guys or figures. In order to play the first game you need to purchase the Skylanders Spyro's Adventure Starter Pack. Then you have your choice to purchase, but you do NOT need to, a Single Character Pack which comes with a single character. An Adventure Pack which contains an exclusive Skylander, two Magic Items, and a new mission or a chapter in the story. Or a triple pack which contains three Skylanders (single pack is the one kids like the most, no wait, adventure packs because they come with really cool guys.) So with an adventure pack, of three, like a Pirate Seas it's a sea theme. You play on a pirate ship. 

Once you pick a guy you like you put him on the Portal Of Power, (POP comes with the game) he comes into life in the video game. You are the Portal Master. You're in charge of who you pick to beat Kaos, the bad guy trying to take over Skylands. You can level up your guy, (like he gets more health, more health means he can take more damage, like land mines on him) he will get more powerful, and you can buy upgrades (upgrades means more abilities and stronger attacks) with money you earn in the game (fake money that does not cost real money) and they get cool special abilities. For instance my favorite guy, Terrafin has two primary abilities: he can Punch, or he can Burrow (Terrafin is a land shark). You can buy an extra ability where he summons baby sharks, and you can buy upgrades to all his attacks like Iron Knuckles where his punch attacks do increased damage. You can also put hats on guys and have them battle each other. You can buy hats, it gives them a boost. A boost is to be better.

The premise of the game is that the evil Lord Kaos (he is evil because he is short and crabby) wants to rule Skylands, and take over it . It is your job as a portal master to unfreeze the skylander by putting them on the POP to stop him. Skylands are islands that float in the sky.

I highly recomend this game, I really like it a lot. I can't wait tell you more next week. Your parents will like to watch you play from where they are laying on the bed or sofa. 

You can do two player so your friends or brothers can play. If they're AWESOME (hint hint to mine) they'll play with you.

-Baby E

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Top Ten List of What a Grief Pass Will Buy You, With Love, To Mr Lady

Joining in today, with Denise Tanton's campaign, "A List Because I Can," where in we wave our list blog post fannies in Mr Lady's pretty much perfect face, with list posts of our own, because of what Mr Lady writes here -- that numbered list blog posts are SEO traffic driving witchery.

Also, because it's guaranteed fun to mess with Mr Lady.

So, here with sincere love, to you Mr Lady:

My Top Ten List of What A Grief Pass Will Buy You 

1)  Bakery has no calories during this time. Bavarian cream donuts and deep fried crullers, all made out of spun air.
2)  Fully loaded Whole Milk Lattes with whip: also see above.
3)  No make-up on in public, because obviously: grieving.
4)  No need to change clothes, if people feel pushed to ask if you're all right when they see you, answer, "My mother died." They won't ask again.
5)  Forgetfulness and tardiness, all forgiven and understood.
6)  If not, who cares.
7)  No need to clean house, fold laundry, vacuum carpet. Free Pass for 30 days. You give it to yourself.
8)  Take-out meals six nights a week, with home cooked meal on seventh day, and only because you are the one craving the comfort of feeding those you love.
9)  Falling asleep on sofa in today's clothes, family knows it's the spot where sleep comes easiest.
10) Sleeping in the same pattern as when you first brought your babies home, up, down, sleep, wake, all depending on the moments between cries.

**Seriously, thanks for the fun, diversion, invitation to community, Mr Lady and Denise. Smiles much appreciated, much welcome. To join in, let Denise know you'll be along for the ride, drop her a line, comment here on her blog. Let's list-stick it to Mr Lady. Sounds like something she'd like.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Like Seeing Green for the First Time

The last week before my mother died, she acted so differently.

I was taking her for rides daily. With the windows down and the wind blowing in, from her passenger seat she'd stare at the sky and ask, "Have you ever seen such a blue sky? So pure and clear." When we drove past the many farmers' fields in my small town, she'd tell me to look, "See that green? The grass is a green like I've never seen." One day when the temperatures were in the 90's, I started to roll the car window up so I could put the air conditioning on for her, she asked me to leave the windows down, because "The air is so fresh like water on my face."

One of her favorite things to do had become for me to take her on a rustic road where wild lilies grew. She'd ask me to pull over and pick "just one" and she'd hold it, staring at its center, saying over and over in Spanish, "What a beautiful flower. Have you ever seen such  glory?"

With my children at the lake, she'd marvel at the clouds and loved sitting and staring at shapes. Excited, she'd point and call to my son, Xavier, "That one looks like a little rabbit!" She had stopped talking in English to the children about two weeks before then, and it was all Spanish now. When I spoke to her, I'd catch her staring at my face like she had never seen me before, the way she would look at the paintings at the art museum where she would take us when we were little. My heart fell when it occurred to me that possibly, she was beginning to not recognize us anymore, but her answers back to my questions were quick, witty, and right on track, and she knew it was me she was talking to. 

The day before she passed away, I remember being surprised to the point of laughing out loud, when I told her one of our shared, secret pleasures: gossip on a thorn in my side woman. My mother had been semi-conscious for several days, and I leaned in, telling her the latest antics on this less than kind person, when in the quiet of the room where you heard nothing but the small fan whirring, cooling her face, she burst out with a "Ha!" At that moment, I had never felt more grateful, more honored, more proud, to have the gift of humor. 

She laughed, like laughter had become her oxygen. Our youngest, Auggie, would dance for her, wiggling with his butt facing her, and shouting "Activities!" and she'd almost choke from the sputtering joy. It became so important for her to hold my hand while I drove. Equally important, she had to touch my children's faces every day that she saw them.

She acted like she's never acted before, serene, tranquil. She took notice of everything, it was as if her prayer that day had been, Be aware. Be Aware.

One day while driving, as she said so softly to herself in Spanish, "The green of that grass... look how green, like emeralds," I remember my stomach clenching, as I realized it. I looked at her while she stared out of her window, and I remember thinking, in disbelief at how soon it was going to be, she knows she's going to die. Because she hung on to everything as if she knew she'd never see it again. But it wasn't desperation, it was wonder. I opened my mouth to ask her, but I was too scared.

It's so sad, with all I've had to do, I haven't had time to reflect on the days before her death.

I kept a notebook of this time with her because I knew I had to -- the air felt lit, magical, and no doubt I was in the thick of something rare. One morning, with eyes closed, she pointed to something behind her. At 4 a.m., the day before she passed away, she reached for my face while I was reading to her, and though her eyes were closed, her hand found my chin, and she held it, making a croaking sound. I will never not remember it.

She tried without success to open her mouth and say something to my children the day they came to say good-bye; as weak as she was, she willed herself to put her shaking hands together in prayer and made a whimpering sound. I saw the corners of her mouth turn down, in sadness, and it broke me. She didn't want to leave them. I keep saying over and over, She doesn't want to leave them.

When my mother and I were alone during those last days, I lay next to her and stroked her hand, telling her, "Mama, the books the nurses gave me here say you can hear me. I'm so sorry for your life. I'm sorry for the childhood you had. I'm sorry your husband killed himself and you were left alone in a new country, with six children, one of them just born. I'm so sorry you came to the United States where your life has always been too hard for you. I'm so sorry, mama. I love you, and thank you for taking care of us, for being so good to my children, for saving me from post partum depression. You had newborn Alec crying in your arms, and me crying on your shoulder. You came to see me every day when I didn't know how I was going to make it through the next hour with that first baby. Remember? You saved me, mama, from the most terrifying time in my life. You saved me. Thank you, mama."

And when I finished, there was silence, except for her dry tears being the only sound.
Her last days were complex, and simple, and astounding.

The end of the indestructible woman that my mother was.

When we called her church of over forty years and told them of her death, you could hear their reaction from across the room, "Leonor? Oh, no!"

I wanted to say, "I KNOW. None of us can believe it."

Who can believe it.

I still don't. It's the abruptness of death, no matter how slow it is in coming, that leaves me bewildered. Even as I sit, sorting through the packed boxes of her things as evidence around me that she is gone, I shake my head hoping something falls into place, that allows the permanency of this condition, to sink in.
* * *

Monday, August 19, 2013

As Big and As High As Possible (Now with Secret Steps)

The higher the hair, the closer to God.

That's the reason the South gives for their coiffed poufs. I have three Midwestern reasons for my tallifying production here: one white can of Paul Mitchell Freeze-n-Shine, one purple Conair blow dryer with a concentrator nozzle, and one boar bristle (eeewww gross) wooden-handled Goody round styling brush.

Also, soooper important over everything else: young, strong, taut, tireless arms. Super important. You've got nothin' without tireless.

My silver lining today, which was so much appreciated considering the work I've been doing since this week-end, that of sorting through every envelope, every book, every folder, every box, of my mother's -- was finding a 1980's hair gone high photo of myself.

The hair, frozen in place by Mr. Freeze and his ray gun himself, stands so innocently youthful, strong, confident and assured, with no idea just how abnormal a look this is on this planet.

Hair just doesn't do this.

I would wake at 6:30 a.m., step into the shower at 5 foot 6 inches, step out, produce the hair monument, and 5 foot 8 inches of me would slide into the driver's seat of my maroon Toyota Corolla, scrunching down in my seat all the way to work, so to not risk messing the bump.

What boggles my mind more than the hairdo here, is that I'd check off on it. Giving myself one last once-over before heading out in the morning, I would stop and look in the mirror, with eyes in far better shape than the eyes of mine today, smile at what I saw, cock a knowing index finger at my reflection, and be on my way, head held high (and hair).

You can just feel the safety-pinned jeans around your ankles, can't you?


**You have all been beyond words with your private messages, emails, cards, and texts. To say you make a difference is an understatement. THANK YOU. Sorting my mother's items has been just what I need... and as sad as her passing is, I'm wild about old books, old magazines, and finding notes, photos, inscriptions... it's like being with her every day again.

Thank you for all the caring. 

Now, as promised, the Secret Steps to Hair High Heels:

1. Towel dry hair so it's semi wet.
2. Bend over and dry bangs upside down with blow dryer at highest setting, ignore the pounding heart and dizziness that begin in minute ten.
3. Stretch and pull bangs around twirling round boar bristle styling brush, moving in direction of back of the head. Burn Dry and pull until you feel yourself almost snatched bald-headed. 
4. When bangs crispy as well done bacon, spray while upside down with Freeze spray ray gun. Helps to have bathroom fan on for ventilation and ease of breathing. Try not to think of future with COPD.
5. Hang head for 2 or 3 minutes more. Steady self with hand on sink.
6. With as little movement as possible, slowly bring head back up. Done to prevent hair volume loss as much as to prevent orthostatic BP changes.
7. Kiss mirror, and walk out the door, two inches taller.

**If you do this, it will work.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Glory of a Picture

The unspoken power of a photo, the beauty of an image, the emotion of the visual. Why are we drawn to photos? What happens to us that when we see a picture, we want more than just a glimpse of a few seconds in the life of another, but also yearn to imagine all that is frozen in that capture of time.

My fingers trace around my mother's beautiful face, I see her cheekbones, her slim shoulders, I look at her. So young and at that moment, was her life happy? My sister rests in her arms, leaning in, effortless in her trust of my mother's presence. Were the days for my mother and her small family then, tranquil, full of Sundays spent drifting away hours in the river?

When she rode her father's horses, along with her sister and her brother, could she have imagined he'd be gone before reaching adulthood? Would she have stayed in these mountains forever without the bother of time? And how did I know without even looking closely at this photo that my mother was a woman who would not be riding side-saddle.

What dreams and wishes did my mother and father secretly hold behind their gaze here, as they smiled for someone with a camera? Did she hold a secret of a new life within her? Had she already whispered this to my father? Or was it all just this, the moment. The bliss of a sultry breeze that makes the promise of being young, eternal.

The glistening threads in our lives, did my mother here know it? That look she gives my sisters, right then and there, did she feel herself wrapped in the strands of spun gold that would make up her tapestry? It's the pull I feel, of what I see in her face, questions asked more than answered.

I tell myself, that this, all of this here, is what brought a silent smile to my mother's lips as the wind blew her hair that afternoon we spent on the lake's bluff. This photo making eternal the last time I'd be able to take her to feel the sun and return her if only for an hour, back to the mountains of Colombia.

The stand-still breathlessness that a photo gives us, more than what we see with our eyes, sweeping us away with an image that frees hopes and opens hearts to see all that isn't there -- the never ending story; one that makes it possible for us to see the before, the after, the during. The moment.

Life is an exquisite work in progress, burning with an intensity through our minutes and hours with a perfect whitehot fire that leave words failing, and unable to capture. So we try and hold it instead -- like a butterfly fluttering against our cupped hands.

With a fragile, foolish hope of keeping her here forever, I look at my mother, and take a picture.

* * *
**As many of you know, my mother passed away August 5. I want to thank you, for holding me up, in this loss, that words cannot explain. Thank you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Status Update: Checking In With a Griever

-Day 1 Friday:

11:00 a.m. Mother's funeral. Wear black dress. Deliver eulogy. Host luncheon.

2:15 p.m. Pack van up with photo boards, photo albums, candles and crystal dishes from mother's service.

3:00 p.m. Arrive home, fall face down on sofa. With little boy.

Rest of day: Still in black dress from mother's funeral.

10:05 p.m. Sleep on sofa in black dress from mother's funeral.

-Day 2 Saturday:

8:01 a.m. Wake up in black dress from funeral.

7:00 p.m. Change from black dress from funeral, into black T shirt.

7:15 p.m. Drive self in black T shirt and slippers for something to eat. Only want ice cream.

8:20 p.m. Friend drops off purple violet plant, my mother's favorite. Can barely make out velvety leaves through blur of tears.

9:05 pm. Go into garage, stare at van full of things from mother's funeral, no room for children. Walk back into house.

9:10 p.m. Turn to FB: van needs emptying. Unable to do. Sage friends advise children to empty items into back room, I go through items later.

9:39 p.m. Children empty van.

11:41 p.m. Fall asleep grateful for wise friends on FB. 

-Day 3 Sunday:

7:48 a.m. Open eyes to view from sofa of blue sky and raindrops in sun!

7:49 a.m. Shout at kids to be dressed and ready to go because Now! Now! perfect weather for visit to cemetery.

9:45 a.m. Drive home from cemetery silently, family with me, radio on but don't hear it. Only hear words in my head of how one week ago we were with my mother, and today feels like someone else's life. 

12:30 pm. Escape to movies with 16-year-old son who lets me rest my head on his shoulder during previews, and then throughout movie. He doesn't re adjust once.

6:30 p.m. Dear friend drops off pizza and salad. I take bites and swallow hard in between tears.

11:07 p.m.  Promise to re-send re-write re-word every single card ever sent to anyone who has lost a mother. Will begin with, "My apologies, I had no idea."

-Day 4 Monday:

6:49 a.m. On sofa, eyes wide open, body tired but mind too sad to sleep. Still in black T shirt from weekend.

7:20 a.m. Dear friend knocks on door and drops off card. Is taken aback by lack of wardrobe change, endears herself to me by stammering she "likes T shirt I've been wearing these days."

12:00 p.m. Take children with me to funeral home to pick up mother's cremains. Even when holding evidence of ashes, my mind says not her.

12:40 p.m. Children make me laugh on drive home when littlest says, "Who me? Oh, you know, nothing special -- just driving around with my grandmother's ashes in the minivan."

1:30 p.m. Ice cream for lunch.

6:47 p.m. And dinner.

-Day 5 Tuesday:

7:15 p.m. Place mother's ashes in car seat next to me and go for ice cream. Cry while driving, wondering who's going to ask me now about the stories in my life.

7:35 p.m. Park car at mother's favorite ice cream drive-in and begin with what was always her first question to me as soon as I walked into her room, the latest story of woman who is thorn in my side. Salty tears fall and mix into my chocolate ice cream as I tell her what's new. I still finish cone.

8:00 p.m. 18-year-old son gets surprising new job of hearse driver when mother's ashes still left in car from ice cream run earlier in evening. He takes car, and thus inadvertently takes her for ride with him. He comes home saying, "Well, looks like Nona finally got to go for that car ride alone with me."

8:09 p.m. Bring my mother's ashes in, place her in piano room, where she can now sit near front window, listening to her grand children's serenades.

9:00 p.m. Change into grey T shirt.

11:50 p.m. Fall face down on sofa in grey T shirt. Wonder what I'm going to do.

4:15 a.m. Wake with crick in my neck and see littlest next to me. Don't want him to wake and leave so let him stay in my neck cranny.

-Day 6 Wednesday:

7:15 a.m. Take Tylenol for crick in neck from littlest sleeping in there all night.

Rest of morning: Still in grey T shirt.

9:21 a.m. On sofa, chanting grade school cheer Get up! Get going! You can move and do it!  Gooooooooo me!

10:19 a.m. Shower, leave to register two oldest for high school, come back home and rest for half an hour, leave again to buy shoes for two oldest.

1:55 p.m. Return home and pat self on back for school registration completed, shoe shopping completed, and not telling every person who asked about our summer, that my mother died. Flop down on sofa.

2:05 p.m. Scoop up littlest in my arms and bury my face in his soft head. Pass out for nap. Stay like that, eyes closed, until 8 p.m.

-Day 7 Thursday:

10:40 a.m. Try singing along to radio but voice won't go faster than 33 rpm.

3:00 p.m. Attempt to do all the things I need to do around house but legs are stiff and arms leaden. Will try again Friday.
5:25 p.m. Five pounds chocolate covered raspberries for dinner.

1:00 a.m. Order T shirt from Zazzle, "I have no parents. Be nice."

1:20 a.m. Set alarm to wake at 6:45 a.m. then plan to go to small bakery downtown and buy all the donuts.

1:50 a.m. Take blanket to sofa, stare at ceiling and marvel that a week has passed and how strange life will be without a mother. Hot tears slip out the sides of my eyes and puddle in my ears because I don't know what I'm going to do now that the person who loved me more than anything, is gone.

* * *

 **I'm doing okay, ups and downs, and moments that strike out of nowhere when you really need them not to, like not being able to walk past the watermelon at the supermarket because we'd always begin our visits with my mother with a bowl of chilled, cubed watermelon. Your love and kindness on the internet have lifted me and given me peace and comfort. Thank you, for being there, and making all this, a sharing of love. 

You guys are the best.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Grateful for Sun, Children Still Home, and Things To Do

Today is one week since my mother passed away.

What's strange is that it feels like only days since she was here while at the same time feeling like we've been without her much too long already.

So strange.

The weather here today is sunny and blue skies, my children are home with me three more weeks, and I've grown blind to piles of housework around me. We'll be going to visit my mother's grave later on, taking her the lilies she loved so much from our garden. I know she has her own beautiful lilies where she is now, and that gives me peace that leaves me with an unexpected smile.

Thank you to all of you for your cards and emails and facebook messages. There is a strength that comes from knowing people really care... care to the point where you can drink up that love knowing you are not alone.

The internet is wonderful, and unless you have at least one foot in it, no one can believe how people you've never met, carry you. But you all have, and you do, and I am grateful for that today.


**I had the most wonderful dream this weekend. It was a day in late fall, and my children and I were walking up a cement path to a light grey bungalow that had a full outdoor front porch, when we saw my mother come outside of the house and begin sweeping the wooden floor energetically with a megawatt smile. "I didn't know you were coming so early!" she said, "I have a house again!" She kept on smiling, looking at us. We were so happy to see her and shouting "Nona!" we ran up the steps.


Friday, August 9, 2013

We'll Make It

Well, last night was nothing short of a miracle. 

I went shopping for the food for my mother's funeral, somehow managing to not be brought to my knees by the lamentful aching supermarket elevator music, the kind that's all slowly swelling strings that seem to stretch on forever. As if that wasn't enough, I already could barely see out of my teary eyes because everything on the shelves had me saying "My mother loved watermelon. My mother loved caramels. My mother loved chocolate cake," when I kept running into everyone I know asking me, "How is your mother?" 

But I did it, I got it all done, and only the sheer determination of pulling together a party for my mother of cake and ice cream and pink roses that she will never forget, pulled me through.

And today, we have my mother's funeral. I'll be delivering the eulogy. My oldest boy will be doing the first reading, and my middle boy and littlest will bring up the offerings.

This week has been a mad rush of planning activity, and society's rituals keep you distracted in the days so immediate after a death, that you have a bit of a period of putting off the inevitable -- that of seeing what life is like without them.

I know my family and I will make it through tomorrow's service, and the reception afterward, where people will tell us a bit about our mother, share their stories, while we smile and say Thank You. 

That'll be the easy part. It's in the days that will follow, after our frenzied pace has passed, that we'll feel ourselves bone weary and looking at the thousands of steps before us that we now have to take, without them.
 *So many heartfelt thanks to all of you, for your kind messages, emails, phone calls, cards, FB check-ins, and beautiful tweets. You have become my community, my support. And I am grateful. xo

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I imagine...

I imagine this to be her view now...

My mother peacefully passed away at 2 p.m. on Monday, August 5; her bed surrounded by those who love her. The last words she heard were from her treasured books of poetry, and her arms were filled with the flowers we had brought her.

She gave us two deep sighs, then sailed away on poems and roses.

* * *

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Familiar in the Unfamiliar

Many of you know that my mother has been in hospice, where I see her daily. I pick her up, take her for ice cream, then we drive to the lake where we sit quietly looking over the water and I watch the wind softly tousle her silver hair.

When my husband heard I was taking my mother out by myself, he was astounded. "You? Alone? With her wheelchair?," he asked in front of our children, "How do you do that?"

I opened my mouth to explain but our youngest returned rapid fire, "Mom's Colombian. She's immortal."

That's how my son sees me, immortal. That's how we all see our parents, as immortal.

And when the time comes for their days on this earth to end, little is more shocking.

I know that the physicians and hospice nurses involved in my mother's care must use four or five exclamation marks in a row when they document their meetings with me. "Daughter in denial!" "Daughter feels mother getting better!" "Explained to daughter her mother is in hospice!"

When I went to my mother's last Doctor appointment just a few weeks ago on July 5, I asked him why she was so quickly falling apart. He took in my question, and graciously chose his words. Slowly, he answered, "She's not. She's 88 and a half years old and in end stage renal failure."

I still didn't get it.

Last week, before leaving for a social media conference and with much left to do, I stopped in to see her. I walked into her room and I could see in her reddened eyes that she had been crying. My mother has been independent her entire life, and now being in a wheelchair and in hospice --  just imagining the weight of her thoughts crushed me. She counted on the daily rides outside with me in this summer, and I only had enough time built in my day to take her for ice cream, but I couldn't ignore the loud nudging in my mind. We went to dinner.

And of all the whisperings and life decisions I have ever made, this one, will always be one of the most important.

On that afternoon, my mother and I eat like queens and we sit at our table for over two and a half hours. We order anything we want a la carte from the menu. She savors her bean soup, declaring it, "Delicious!" She eats every spoonful as if it were lobster bisque. We share bites of the cut-up hot dog on her plate and it might as well have been filet mignon. The chocolate milk we have is the way she likes it -- made from white milk with chocolate syrup stirred in. We have lime Jello, then order mint chocolate chip ice cream, and she eats it all.

We laugh, and she smiles, and I see her looking at me like she's seeing me for the first time. Her eyes linger on my face. I glance over at the clock on the wall facing only me; I note the time, and decide to ignore it. I promise her that in five days, after Chicago, we'll have dinner here again. Her mouth breaks open, wide and excited. She almost claps.

When I come back from Chicago on Sunday, I see her and she sits on her bed while I tell her all she wants to know about my trip; I clean up her room and put away the laundry I've done, and she listens. We go outside into the warm July night and we sit by the fountain outside of her hospice center. I hand her pennies and dimes to toss into the water. She asks for quarters for the big wishes, and we both fling them in, shouting, "Hawaii!' at the same time. I remind her we'd go out to dinner again on Friday. She can't wait.

On Tuesday, we go to the aviary. There is an orange feathered bird that is a bully to two little grey birds that just want to be alone together. We keep up with the daily feathered drama and she asks me where she can write a report to let the powers that be know of the mean orange bird. After she chastises the bully bird that she has named "King," I take her back to her room. I give her my word that I'll be back Wednesday, and she doesn't seem to want to say good-bye. She asks me over and over, if I really will be back in the morning. I assure her that I will, and remind her that it's going to be a big day, because I plan on bringing her along for back to school shopping with my youngest, because she seems strong enough. She promises me she'll go to bed early and I leave her, excited and grateful, holding my hands, thanking me for everything.

Wednesday morning, as I'm getting ready to pick her up, my phone rings. One thing I hate about caller I.D. is the gut punch of a recognized number. My stomach goes cold when I see it's her hospice center. I stare at the number on the phone and I don't want to pick up. My children hear me say that out loud, but I know I have to answer. I say hello, and the supervising nurse begins to tell me that my mother has been ill since 4 a.m. I hear my mother, so sick, in the background. I need the nurse to talk quickly, so I can hang up, and leave right then -- my heart is pounding with what I will find when I get there. 

I am a thick headed, dense as a plank, silly daughter.

My first words to her hospice nurse when I walk into my mother's room and see her ill enough to not be dressed yet though it was almost 9 a.m., are, "She can't be sick. I still have her shopping list in my pocket for today -- right here, see?" From my front jeans pocket, I pull out the folded up white sheet of paper we've written out together, just yesterday. "See, this is what she wants to buy my son for back to school. And it's sunny out, we need to go out for ice cream after. We can't miss going out for ice cream when it's nice out. I need to take her for her ice cream..."

The nurse lets me keep talking.

"Mama," I bend down and speak into my mother's soft curls splayed against her pillow. With a desperation that strangles my throat I whisper, "Remember our dinner, we have to go for our dinner."

I hear the nurse click her pen to write, and imagine the notes she'd begin to take in her chart.

"Daughter in denial..."

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My mother has been semi-conscious since Wednesday morning. Surprisingly, this time sitting by her side isn't tense or frightening, but is a time of awe -- it feels unfamiliarly familiar. So much like the times my babies were born. My mother now and then opens her eyes, sees my face, and with tremulous hands, reaches for it, holding it and making the very sound my children made when they were born -- like a baby lamb.


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