What I Remember

I remember

1957_Laurie age 3

Mom at the stove,
I’d come up behind her, arms around her waist, hugging her
(how old was I?). she was my pillar.

In quiet moments she would turn to me. Hold my face in her hands, look in my eyes, and say, her eyes sparkling,

“shayna punim”*

The measles. In my room in bed, under a sheet. Burning and aching sleeping waking then back to sleep. She sits by my side, bathes my neck my back in alcohol or something.
Gentle, cools my fever. Comfort.

Her total confidence in me – helping me believe in myself as she believed in me.
“You can do whatever you want to do”

Max and George in the glow of summer times (without us).
Just Nanny and Poppo – my mom and dad.
Love, a bond forged. Safe in the arms of second parents.

And I remember

Watching Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts. Her memory fading but reassured, engrossed.
FDR still vivid, remembered. Side by side we (all of us) watching again and again as if the first time.

A realization, loss, grief. “I can’t read!” “Who am I?” “What’s happening to me?” So I read poetry, A Child’s Garden of Versesjust as deep in the past she read to me.
Bed in Summer, My Shadow, Time to Rise:

A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
             [I pause, she chimes in]
“Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepyhead?”
             [Her face lights up. She remembers.]

IMG_1567 small
Later it is music: The Andrews Sisters, Pink Martini. Holding her hand I dance. On the couch she nods, hands sway, feels the beat.

shayna punim

Always forever beautiful. Graceful. Kind.

Fragments

She laughed when Jamie laughed at Poppy.

“My darling girl,” she said twice, rests her hand on mine, brushed my face.

She always recognized us – Kim and me – when we entered the room. Gave us kisses, “I love you” Hands cradling my face, or resting her hand on mine or stroking my hair

Friends, family come to say hello (or goodbye). She welcomes them too with a smile.

When she woke, Melva was by her bed and said “hello.” Mom gazed back.
She said “hello,” put her arms out hands cupping Melva’s head. Melva kissed her.

I lay down curled around her with a kiss.
She put her arms around me in a light hug and stroked my back.

A dear friend wrote: “Wondering when she cupped my chin … stared at me, was it a purposeful gesture, or spontaneous movement. Doesn’t really matter. I was with her.”

Debrah: “Mom woke and said “I’m back.”
I leaned over her. “You don’t have to come back.”
She said, “I know”
Me: “You can say goodbye.”
She said, “I know”
Me: “Kim and I will be fine.”
She said, “I know”

I brush her cheek, kiss her hand, stroke her forehead.
“I’m here.” She said, “I know you are.”

Her eyes looking deep into mine. mine into hers.
Staying like that for ever, searching.

Mom looked at the picture next to her bed, puzzled. Pulling herself up. So weak but strong pointed and asked, “What’s that? Water?”

I knew. She was looking beyond here, now. Closer to what was awaiting. Getting ready.

I remember when I was little

I’d wrap my arms around her. Without words, she offered the strength I needed to find my way in the world. Here, now, as one day became the next, she was drifting away. No longer able to find her way in words, touch became her language – and she was fluent.

My last day with her 

A brief smile. I saw her eyes and she mine.
Raising her hand to my head, stroking my neck. I imagined her offering wordless love.
Still, gentle, her hand slid to the pillow, still stroking.
Did she think the pillow was my neck, or my neck the pillow?

Was she comforting me, or was she drawing strength for her journey?
I think both.

Mommy, I miss you already but will always feel your arms around me. 
I love you

shayna punim: beautiful face (Yiddish)
†Robert Louis Stevenson