Wednesday, November 30, 2005
my mother's smile
My cat looks at me and I think that she knows. I think she knows all kind of stuff like where my mom is and how she’s doing. I can imagine my cat walking up to my mom, wherever they go, and looking up with those moons of eyes and squeaking in her little cat voice. A voice that says, “I thought I’d find you here.” Sometimes my cat looks so old but it’s good to see her. She reaches her paw up to me and her claw gets stuck in my jeans.
My mom died before I got home. I was still on the plane and I couldn’t sleep. Between the lack of sleep, the cold that stuffed up my head, and the impending crisis rattling my emotions, my brain was shutting down. It was dark when we landed in Seattle; I think we were one of the first planes of the morning. In a muted stupor, I deboarded the plane and followed the other muted travelers to the baggage carrousel. The track moved around, with its flaps folding and unfolding and folding back into itself, like a reanimated origami snake it circled and we all stood watching waiting for the first bag to slide out of the mouth.
and then I was so tired. The world was too heavy. The cold air was no longer palatable. My breath no longer offered me comfort and I sat down on the cold linoleum as the first bag slid onto the carrousel. I sat down and felt the chill of winter seep from the floor into my skin and my breath. I felt my mother near me and I started to cry.
It wasn’t until another five hours of baggage claims, customs, immigration, benches and busses that I arrived in Bellingham. I stepped off the bus and the words spilled from my aunts lips. My mother had died early that morning.
Sometimes I feel like I was too slow. That I should have moved faster. I should have caught an earlier plane. I should have…
My cousin and aunt tell me that my mom would have wanted it this way. That, while she wanted to say goodbye to my brother and I, she didn’t want us to see her like that. and I love her for that. I saw her in the hospital enough that I can still imagine her, thin, in a hospital shift, dull on morphine. but my more recent memories can win over those. all sorts of beautiful memories can win over that. but if I had been a day earlier…
so I remember her, standing at the top of her stairs in her Bellingham apartment, smiling down at me as Paul and I pull in on my way up to Vancouver for the training that would send me to Japan. I remember her sitting at her table, fingering the coarseness of a beautiful scrap of paper. I remember her spreading extra butter on toast to try and gain some weight back. I remember I as she waved me off to Japan with all the hope for me in the world. I remember that smile.