I had wanted a short winter. I spent many nights with my eyes clenched shut before falling asleep–as a child does when they’re trying to tell themselves there is no monster under the bed. Throughout August and early September I’d do this, intending to ask the powers that be for something profound, but feeling at a loss for what to ask with respect to my mother’s illness. It seemed that outright asking for her cure was too ambitious in those moments and I’d seem whiny and desperate—I wanted to plan that request out. The most logical thing to ask for was a shortened winter. I had honed in on words my mom had spoken in April: “The sun is finally out and it’s perfect to go outside to my garden and stretch out on the hammock. The winter made me sad, it was so dark.” Her treatments started late April, as well, so the turnaround in her attitude and overall condition seemed to improve with the temperature increase.
The October weather was perfect. Warm afternoons would cool into breezy nights filled with an aroma that could only be described as Arizona autumn. It gave a sense of tranquility that contrasted my emotion; in fact, the entire hospice was a mental battle between feeling comforted and panicked. I preferred to demonize the nurses in an attempt to ease my confusion. In truth, they were not gentle and a little too happy to numb and quiet, which made it easy. There is also the distinct possibility that the hospice itself was no more welcoming than any other home colored in crèmes and coffee browns, but that my family’s unique ability to make ourselves at home regardless of where we are, influenced the atmosphere. During the couple of weekends we spent there, when the whole family came into town, we’d sit, gathering food around on the coffee table, in front of the fireplace and laugh about silly things. Chris would entertain us with stories of his adventure of the moment, while keeping a caring eye on me. He’d stay far enough to give me space, but close enough to hug me if he saw the cloud of fear that would often pass through my eyes.
Taking turns spending time with my mom gave us the ability to give her the best that we had, each of us. We could rotate giving smiles, hand squeezes and reassuring kisses. She slept mostly, waking up few times to look around for familiarity. My preferred spot was in a chair to her left, laying my side on her bed so that she’d open her eyes to see my lying next to her. Then, I could remind her that I was there and she was okay, and her face would change from confused to content and she’d smile at me, “Okay baby, I love you.” The words were almost indiscernible, but I knew exactly what she was saying.
Yes, it was I who asked for this short, warm winter. I saw my mom like the flowers she nurtured so well: blooming in the spring only to wither with the cold. Maybe I was mistaken, though. The flower isn’t burdened with the coming winter… it doesn’t want to push through the freeze. Rather, it will give itself to the earth to nurture and raise a whole new set of seeds that will grow strong in the spring, holding in fragments of the generations before.