Mom had invited us to the club to celebrate the birthdays (Kathy's, which was yesterday, and mine). At her house earlier in the evening she didn't seem right but it's hard to tell what's going on. Is she sad? Has she been drinking? Is this the memory loss from hydrocephalus? It's impossible to be a single thing. She's struggling with her words. She doesn't fight it, just shakes her head and stops talking.
I notice an elderly man two tables down. He has big eyes and big eye glasses and he's watching the conversation at his table like a tennis game. Before I even see the cane hanging on the back of his chair, he is reminding me of Dad. It is his birthday and they are here to celebrate. I can't keep my eyes off of him. A small cake is placed before him. He looks at it a long while before making the move to blow out the single candle. I think that he's looking at that cake like it might be his last. A part of my heart leaves my body and wraps around him.
At dinner, she's unsure how to follow the conversation. Or how to join in. She sits on the edge, watching, trying to keep up. She cries, says she misses my father. She wonders why we sat her backwards at the table. (Frontward would have been facing the piano, not out the window.) She tells us the song is my father's favorite. Then she wonders why they always serve her salad before dinner. She says she does not understand how some people always think everything is beautiful and without trouble. She doesn't agree with that. She has another drink.
During dinner she gets up. And stumbles forward. The waitress is there to catch what surely would have been her fall. I jump up and take her arm, thanking the waitress. We walk to the elevator. She tells me she's a little tipsy. I see on her face she's frustrated and confused. Why is it taking so long? She's leaning on me hard.
She bangs the closed elevator door with her free hand. Mom, the elevator is coming. Be patient.
In the bathroom, I hear her.
Help me, I can't get the bathroom off.
You're in the bathroom, Mom.
But I can't get it off. Please help me.
She sounds little. And lost.
I open her door and see she has her words mixed up. It's her pants. Taking care of the zipper, I then shut the door and wait.
I hear her crying again. She can't get the zipper back up.
She tells me, I wish I was dead. I've thought about it, there's nothing left for me.
I rub her back and tell her I love her.
We walk out but I can see by the way she's walking that we cannot go back upstairs.
Then she asks me, Where is he?
Where is who, Mom?
Your father. He was just here, where did he go?
I wonder how to answer this question, what words are both true and soft.
He's gone, Mom.
What do you mean he's gone? He just left? He'd never leave me here. Are you sure?
Yes, Mom, I'm sure. He is gone.
Why would he leave me here? How are you sure?
I don't want to tell her how I'm sure. I don't want to throw water on her moment of thinking him still alive. But she's thinking he walked out on her tonight, and she needs an answer.
My left arm is around her, guiding her, and my right hand on hers, I tell her. Mom, Dad died.
Hearing me tell her, she starts crying again. She sobs that she had forgotten, can't believe she forgot. She sobs that she misses him.
I'm ready to die, she tells me.
Kathy has gone to get my brother. Mom and I sit on the bench outside. I have my arm around her, and with my other I'm holding her hand. Again, I tell her I love her. She tells me she loves me too.
There is nothing any of us can do.
Kathy returns. Mom looks up through tears and tells her she misses Dad. Kathy is gentle, says we all miss him, says she's sorry. Mom says she's glad Kathy feels that way but there's nothing Kathy can do.
We get her into the car. She's tired. She's confused. I place my hand on her window and say my Goodbyes.
A loud storm had passed through while we were inside. Walking to my car, I realize how silent the night is now. I wonder how in the world her pain will heal. But I know that all my wondering is just my spinning around the answer that's already there. I know that her pain will not heal. And I know that she is telling us the truth: she doesn't want to be here. I know that she is starting to leave us. I can see it coming. And I cannot stop it.