When Merle died, a man who lived in the same assisted living facility as my mother Pearl, she told me his last words were, “Pearl. Pearl. Pearl.” I asked her how she knew that.
Then she said, “I don’t know why they would have told me about your cancer if it wasn’t true.” I told her that I didn’t have cancer and I didn’t want to discuss this anymore.
Later it was about the $12 she owed me, which she didn’t, but was absolutely convinced she did. Easier than arguing, I let her believe she owed me the money.
This was interspersed with —a three mile walk on a brisk, but very sunny day in a beautiful Ann Arbor Park greeted by joggers and bikers, impressed I was pushing my mother in her wheelchair so far down the paved trail; the sharing of a chai tea together which we got for free because I had purchased ten previous cups at this coffee house (totally impressing my mother, absorbing a lot of her focus) while discussing her grandson’s becoming an entrepreneur; and meeting up with my sister and her wife for dinner, getting mom a hamburger in Ypsilanti at one of the best hamburger joints in the US according to GQ magazine and Oprah Winfrey. The day was also filled with her spontaneous naps and long, long, very long mental emergings from those naps, including periodically staring into an invisible and mysterious space.
My mother is letting go yet clinging; sucked out by the undertow yet still swimming against the current. She is confused and clear. She fantasizes yet still sharply observes. She is compassionate; she is bitter. She is winding down and occasionally revving up. She is inside; she is out. She is here. She is there. And through it all, really the beautiful essence of it, is all she wants to do is hold your hand.