Fourteen Notebook Fragments
after My Mother's Death —Glenn Freeman
Delayed flights. Missed connections. The Dr. has said we may not make it in time, and now the car my brother sent to pick us up has gone to Dulles instead of Reagan. My wife says relax. I say my mother is dying. I can’t remember if I was good to my wife when her mother died. Death doesn’t love democracy.
Hours by her bedside. Late at night, early morning, evening. We sit; we wait. In the afternoon, I drift to sleep on the couch in her room. Somewhere in my dreams, I can hear nurses talking, the sterile beeps and blips of monitors in hallways, the fan’s constant hum on my mother’s flushed face. It seems as if there is no longer any there there. Everything is simply metaphor. For what, I don’t know.
6 AM. My mother wakes to a crystalline blue October sky. My favorite time of day she mutters. I realize I never knew that. I don’t want to see it again.
3 AM one night, I leave to get some sleep. At the gate, a fox in the headlights. It stares me down then disappears. I know and do not know what to make of it.
Happy hour and my brother and I smuggle a few beers into her room, toast as she lay unconscious. At the sound of tapping glasses, her brows raise. A slight smile.
She had said her goodbyes days before. She had left us. Her body, however, had other plans.
In warm October light, I walk beside the pond. I twirl a dried milkweed pod and watch the seeds lift into the blue. I know and do not know what to make of it.
I stare at shaded walls trying to see the images she sees, a painter watching the light in ways I couldn’t comprehend. The irony, I thought, knowing that in my younger days it would have been me seeing things on the walls.
Afternoon sunshine beside the stream. Autumn leaves, cattails, and squirrels. In a field of wildflowers gone to seed, I watch a fox hunt then disappear without a sound. I know and do not know what to make of this.
Who is that? she says with eyes suddenly wide. Who’s behind me? She says with nothing but a wall behind her. I won’t repeat myself.
One morning, I leave my father’s apartment before daylight to be sure to be in my mom’s room when the doctor makes his early morning rounds. I don’t know what I wanted to know. Muffin and cup of coffee in hand, I walk out the door as my father’s light comes on in his back room and I see him shuffling his slow shuffle, the befuddled sadness of now living alone even while she’s alive. I should stop and talk with him, but I can’t. God knows what I want to know.
I don’t know how many times I can repeat myself.
The priest tells me my eulogy should be brief. It is, after all, about bringing people into the church, not about my mother. I want to say no. I want to tell him that he’s not going to bring me into the church that way. But, then again, what should it matter to any of us.
My brother and I confirm the body with the funeral director. I wanted to say no. This was not her. The wrinkles and lines on her face that made her who she was all smoothed down to stone, the life ironed away. This was not her. But I knew they just wanted to confirm they weren’t going to cremate someone else’s mother. I know, I know. What should it matter to any of us.