Love Re-Written

When I went to visit my mother on her 90th birthday, I found her sitting up in bed looking peacefully out the window. She turned and smiled at me as I crossed the room. I noticed immediately that there was something dramatically different about her. She looked young. Her cheeks were full and pink. Her green eyes seemed to twinkle. Not a line or wrinkle creased her face. She seemed to be in a state of grace.

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 told me her secret during our last visit. It appears that my mother had fallen in love a few months ago. She described it as a “May-December” romance and it was a secret. I had to promise that I wouldn’t tell a soul.

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, where she had lived for the last five years. To complicate matters, this man was also a relative of the family who owned the facility. My mother said their relationship would be frowned upon by the owners and staff. She wouldn’t even tell me his name.

My mother told me that this was a true love story. It was the kind of love that only comes along once in a lifetime.” She told me that this love affair was so special that I should write about it. She spent the remainder of our visit telling me all about this special man. She talked, I listened. I was happy for her. In real life my mother had not been lucky in love.

As I drove home that night, I made a mental list of all the people who worked at The Pines. I thought 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 could sense my mother’s impatience as I hung up my coat. When I returned with a vase to put the flowers in, the birthday card was still in her hands unopened. She looked at me with anticipation. I pulled a chair up close to her bed, opened my bag 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 for 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.

As she reached up into the night sky, 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.

Down the Hall

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 locker. 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 eyes. My eyes use to be blue, now they are more of a hazel and I don’t think they twinkle anymore. I suddenly realize that I do know this woman. I know her as well as I know myself.

Memory Maker

After my little terrier mix passed away, I went back to the beach where we usually took our walks. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. How could she be pawing at my shoulder, pestering me to get me out of bed to begin our day and then be gone?

I had stayed in bed a little later that morning. I figured since I had to give her medication for an injured disk in her back, we could start out a little later. Gigi always knew when I had a day off. She would only let me sleep so long, before she nudged me out of bed and into the car. We would drive to my favorite coffee shop and then to the best bakery for homemade muffins. We would split the muffin and then go out to the beach for a walk. It was a ritual that we both loved.

Six weeks ago, I notice that she had started walking a little funny. She was off-balance and soon started to sway like a “drunken sailor.” X-rays showed that an injured disk was causing problems with her spinal cord. The vet put her on anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxers. She started to recover immediately with tons more energy. She was soon back to running and jumping. But it didn’t last long. The symptoms came back stronger than the first time. The vet said that sometimes older dogs needed more time to heal. We resumed the treatment with confidence that this time it would work.

Gigi felt better immediately, so I thought a short ten minute walk on soft sand would be alright. It was a beautiful morning and spring had finally arrived. Naturally, we would get the tea and muffin first.

Just as I started to get out of bed, Gigi had a seizure. It was brutal and lasted at least five minutes. My husband and I both had to hold her down. I thought it would kill her. When it stopped she didn’t even know who we were. Her eyes were wide and she was just staring into space. She couldn’t move. We got her to the vet and decided the best thing would be to put her to sleep. It seems that what was going on in her spinal cord had progressed. She would be twelve years old soon and extensive back surgery was out of the question.

As I walked along the beach, retracing our steps, I just couldn’t make sense out this. She was so happy one minute and then gone the next. It just wasn’t fair.

I tried to find answers in the sand, but all I kept seeing was my little dog walking beside me, riding in the car with that look of total bliss, the joy of getting the middle of the muffin where the best berries were and curling up with me in bed with a book and a glass of wine. It was like a movie playing over and over in my mind. Re-runs of all the happy moments throughout the years. I was so lucky to have her in my life. She left me with the best memories.