My impatience reared into gear and I poured the water for my French press too soon. With the lukewarm java beside me on the deck table, I listen to the birds who share my satisfaction with the sweetness of the morning air. I seem to have survived yesterday's brief relapse into neurological distress, an occasional malady which I thought I had outgrown. Early yesterday evening, my friend Brenda came by with Chai Shai carry-out. As we noshed, she asked if my life-style changes or the California doctor's prescription might have impacted its frequency. I speared a bit of pakora, shifted my weight and reflected. I had not thought of that. I had just been living, not realizing that it had been months since my disease's more intricate inflammations had come into play.
I understand my disease more these days, but have nearly lost the will to manage its manifestations. Yesterday I left work early, came to the house and essentially shut down. I slept, sat on the porch reading, and drank carrot juice. At one point, my neighbor came across the street with her five-year-old granddaughter and I swear, that child's hug did more for me than all the pills in China.
Here in the cool morning, surrounded by soft sunlight, I feel my mother's presence. I hear her voice, her lessons, her mantras: If you walk every day of your life, you'll walk every day of your life. So keep walking. I have done that, Momma; I have honored you. But I am tired.
I stretch my neck to let my gaze span the height of the neighbor's chimney, taking in the vagaries of its bricks: red, brown. and beige against the emerald of the towering tree. My mother speaks beside me, What a beautiful neighborhood, Mary; I'm so happy for you. I turn to her, silent, thinking of the ocean, hearing the echo of its voice and reliving the nights I've spent in a chair beside that ocean, wrapped in a shawl. I close my eyes. I listen to that beckoning.
I suddenly recall sitting with my mother on a bench in her backyard, in the spring of 1985, four months before she let go of her decrepit body and allowed her spirit to soar. She wore a bandanna to protect her bare skull from the sun's wicked kiss and a jacket to guard against the coolness of the air. Her frame held precious little flesh. Her cheeks stood high in the ragged contours of her face. She shivered but bore her discomfort with a breathtaking grace.
Three of her grandchildren, Lisa, Rick and Cate, hunted Easter eggs while their parents stood nearby. Rick studied the ground, intent. Cate moved lightly across the yard. Lisa held her Easter basket with the most incredible care, resting each colored egg in the plastic grass. We watched from the side while the children scurried around the yard.
My mother looped her arm through mine. This is enough, she told me. If I have not one second more, this day is enough. Her oldest granddaughter Lisa came towards her, extending her hand, offering my mother a piece of chocolate. Mother lifted her frail arms and Lisa came into their circle. We collapsed into the stillness of the moment, yearning for it to sate us, scrambling for its sheltering edges.
Half a life-time later, now nearly two years older than my mother ever got to be, I keep a mental basket of such memories, shimmering gossamer videos of each tender time. In the midst of yesterday's unfortunate relapse, the lilting sound of Abigail calling my name from her grandmother's porch washed over me. Now that brief respite lies on top of the burgeoning pile of sacred memories. I clutch it against me and sit, motionless; calm, content; for once not needing more.