The conversation was a bit one sided, but then I had plenty to say so I wasn’t put off. She’d often been silent; and rather than see it as insulting I’d always imagined she was the best of listeners. So I hardly noticed as I rambled on.
I reminded her of the time when I was eleven and had gone to Lake Calhoun with a few friends. It was spring and the lake was still crusted in ice, though there were a few feet of open water at the shoreline. We’d been throwing rocks, as large as we could find, trying to make little icebergs. It seemed an adventure at the time.
And then Timmy Davison threw a rock that was so big he could hardly lift it much less toss it abroad, and as he was standing directly behind me at his release, the stone found its way into the peak of my skull. I say into deliberately, since it made a nice hole which I never actually saw, but the boys were amazed with it so it must have existed.
I said “Remember when I came in the house crying and you came to comfort me as you always did and then you stopped and started making that puking noise you used to make when you saw something gross? Like when I’d sneak up behind you and say the word snot, and you’d start choking and we’d all have a good laugh at your expense? And then you raced me to the hospital and sat there for hours as surgeons zipped up your little baby and you were so happy when I finally made it back into the waiting room and we could go home so you could make me pancakes? As many as I wanted?”
She didn’t respond, but I knew she remembered. In fact I knew she recalled each one of our tragedies and missteps because each one of them was so important to her.
I droned on for hours, painting photographs of times gone by, confessing sins; like the one where I’d said I’d been robbed on my paper route, and really I’d just lost 20 dollars and couldn’t imagine how I’d make it up, or how dad would since he didn’t have any money to spend on a kid’s foolishness. I figured she’d always known. Mothers are like that; they always know.
I tried to explain to her that I loved her, always, even when I said otherwise. I recounted hours and hours of conversations we’d had in the wee hours of the morning, me stumbling in late either tipsy or drug hazed and she, awake from coughing and sitting at the kitchen table exhausted but unable to so much as lie down without hacking herself upright.
And I softly talked about how painful it was to see her deteriorate, how I couldn’t bear letting go, how I was inconsolable at her funeral and how much I still miss her, even 22 years later. “You can’t imagine how good it was to know for a fact that at least one person in the world would always be there for me, no matter what quicksand I’d walked into” I said. “And you can’t imagine how alone it is now that there is no such thing in my life, even though I’m now older than you were when you died.”
I talked, I thought, I dozed a bit; but I know she didn’t mind. She was like that, always ready to forgive and forget your faults and mistakes.
The sound of a lawn mower prodded me awake. It was just dawn, and I kneeled on the wet grass and stood as best I was able. There were a few minutes of wooziness before I’d finally gotten my bearings. Sitting on a lawn all night will do that to a person. I wondered if climbing the fence out would be as easy as climbing in. I’d have hated to have been caught and charged with trespassing; so much fuss would seem disrespectful to not only my mother but the thousands of interred who slept nearby. Though really, it shouldn’t be trespassing if part of your soul is buried on the grounds. It should be more like coming home.
I waved, cocked my head and smiled as I knew that would get her to smile too, and turned to make my way back into the land of the living.