Nothing is more inviting then a farmers market in the dead of a cold winter.
Nothing is more inviting then a farmers market in the dead of a cold winter.
When I went to visit my mother on her birthday, I found her sitting up in bed looking peacefully out the window. She smiled when I entered her room. There was something dramatically different about her, she seemed to be in a state of grace.
She looked so young. Her checks were full and pink and her green eyes were like twinkling jewels. There was not a line or wrinkle in her face. She practically glowed.
I kissed her on the cheek and wished her a happy birthday. She told me that she had been waiting for me. I could tell that she was happy to see me. My mother had been happy ever since she had told me her secret.
My mother had fallen in love a few months before her 90th birthday. It was a May-December romance and it was a secret.
The man who my mother had fallen in love with was almost 40 years younger. He worked as a maintenance man at the nursing home and was also a relative of the family who owned the facility. My mother said that their relationship would be frowned upon by the owners and the staff.
My mother told me that this was a “true love story.” “It was the kind of love that only came along once in a lifetime.” She told me that this love affair was so special that I should write about it.
I thought about what she said. I made a mental list of all the people who worked at “The Pines.” I thought that I knew most of them. I knew the maintenance man and he was in his 70s and no relation to the owners. It didn’t matter, I knew what would make my mother happy.
I pulled my chair up close to her bed and took out the pages that I had written. My mother had told me the beginning of her story, now I was able to give her an ending:
It was late, almost midnight when he opened the door to her room. She was waiting as planned. She was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing her prettiest dress. She took his hand and they headed out the door. They crept silently down the hallway and out the back door.
Holding her hand tightly in his, he led her into the warm spring night. They headed into the woods, moonlight lighting their way. When they came to the end of the woods they found themselves in a small meadow. My mother walked into the middle of the field and looked up at all the stars in the sky.
She reached up into the night sky and and the stars came down around her, spiraling into twinkling stairs. My mother turned around and looked into the eyes of her true love. Hand-in-hand, they climbed the stairs to a place where they could be together forever in love.
My mother passed away shortly after she turned 90. In real life my mother had not been lucky in love. It pleases my to think that she finally got her chance at true love. Sometimes you just have to re-write your story.
I brought the old shoe box out to the kitchen table. I cleaned the table off and set up shop. I opened a brand new notebook and laid my favorite silver ballpoint pen next to it. I sat down and slowly started taking pieces of paper out of the box. They were all different sizes, some folded neatly and some crumpled. All had something to say.
I unfolded one piece of paper and opened my notebook and started to copy the words. What would the words become? Where would the words take me? What would the words show me? Would they become a story or a verdict? Guilty as written. Time off for good behavior or a life sentence to be served behind the unwavering bars of regret and sorrow.
I can feel my heart grow heavy, tears fill my eyes. I begin to unfold, read and copy every word, note after note. All my thoughts scribbled down over the years. Whatever else had been lost, these notes were kept safe in a battered old shoe box. I will not stop writing until the box is empty and the notebook is filled.
I feel the muscles in my hand cramping up as I continue to write. Crumpled pieces of paper are strewn around my feet. Finally the shoe box is empty. I pick up all the discarded pieces of paper and return them to the box. I put the box in the trash and put the newly filled notebook safely in my desk drawer.
I have journeyed to forgotten places, remembered beautiful things and felt heartache all over again. I am very tired now. Soon it will be a new year. I will rest and then see what the notebook has in store for me.
Her room is the first one on the right. A light above her door blinks, signaling that she needs help. I stop and look down the long gray hall. Rooms of old sick people. I turn into her room.
A tiny woman is sitting up in bed, almost lost in a disarray of blankets and pillows. Her snow white hair is cut short, sticking out at all ends. She finally notices me standing there. “Can you help me get up?” she asks in a small voice.
I help her to the bathroom. She walks hunched over. She can’t be more than five feet tall. When I reach the bathroom door, she firmly tells me that she will take it from there.
I go and ready her chair. I put a blanket over the cold, slippery vinyl. I bring her table with her lotions and hand mirror closer. I see her peeking out the bathroom door and guide her over to the chair. I place a pillow behind her back and wrap a blanket around her shoulders. She smiles up at me. Her ice blue eyes are almost lost in the lines and wrinkles of her face. Her eyes are the color of a northern lake in early dawn. Her eyes twinkle as she thanks me.
“God, how old is she?” I ask myself, as I place her call light next to her. I tell her to press the red button if she needs anything. She asks for the book that she left on the bedside table. We talk awhile about the book and how we both like to read. I turn to go. She opens her book and puts on her glasses.
I return later to change her bed. The book is lying open on her lap, her glasses have slipped down her nose as she naps. All of a sudden she seems so familiar to me. I run my fingers through my own silvery-white hair and think of the book tucked away in my satchel. I wish I were somewhere else. I wish I was reading. I quietly go over to her table and pick up her mirror. I see my face so much older now. I look into my own blue eyes behind black rimmed glasses. My eyes are darker than hers and I don’t think they twinkle. I suddenly realize that I do know this woman. I know her as well as I know myself.
I came upon a little brown mouse the other night. I was leaving work, making my way across the large parking lot to my car. Ahead of me, a co-worker had already gotten into her car and turned the headlights on. All of a sudden I could see this little mouse scurrying around, sort of going in circles. The little creature headed towards me. I stopped, while the mouse ran around my feet. My co-worker called to me as she got out of her car, “Don’t touch him, you don’t want to get bitten.” She joined me as the mouse just stood there, leaning weakly to one side. We sadly agreed that the little thing must have been nicked by a car tire. I tried to grab the mouse by the tail. If I could only get him to the tall grass on the other side of the parking lot. He was too quick to grab and continued running around in circles, obviously stunned. The woman looked at me and cautioned me not to try and grab it. “You don’t want to get bitten and have to go get a bunch of shots.” She was right, I didn’t want to get bitten. After a few more tries at the tail, I told her to go home. She had done enough.
She drove away, but I just couldn’t leave the mouse alone in the parking lot. Somehow I had to get it to the grass. He couldn’t move in a straight line, obviously injured and probably didn’t have much of a chance of survival. I put down my canvas bag and the mouse immediately ran over to it, trying to hide in the shadows. All of a sudden I knew what to do. I reached into my bag and brought out a plastic lunch container. I took the lid off, scooped the mouse into the container and snapped the cover on. I gathered up my bag and started walking across the parking lot to the grassy area. I walked a little ways into the grass and let the mouse out under a small shrub. He just stayed still for a moment, then buried his way under the long dead grass and leaves. Will he survive? Probably not. But at least he won’t be crushed under a tire. He will die hidden in the grass, not lying on cold asphalt.
Driving home, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. She stopped for every animal in need. She was constantly bringing home stray dogs and cats. Once she brought a squirrel home. It had been hit by a car and she tried to save it. The difference between my mother and me, is that she would have brought the little mouse home.
I can’t stop thinking about the mouse and or my mother. I’m glad I was there to at least get him to a safe place. I hope that the shelter of the grass and smell of soil, gave the little creature some peace on that dark December night.