When a hospital bed replaced her California king, she looked exposed and temporary, lying in the center of a stripped-down room.
She liked to sit in a rocking chair in the living room, until fatigue overcame her. I helped her back to bed, sliding backward in my sock feet as she shuffled forward facing me. She held my hands like a baby learning to walk. A muffled moan, buried deep in her throat, punctuated each scuff of her feet. We stopped to rest, alone in the house, toe-to-toe in the grief-shrouded hallway.
I searched her Natalie Wood eyes for the woman who’d waited up for teenaged me to come home from dates. For the woman who’d lived in swashes of color: pink lipstick, turquoise jewelry, violet dresses. For the woman who’d painted our dining room red.
She looked right back. Unflinching attention replaced the morphine stare. I was startled for a beat. And then I leaned toward her, careful to maintain our fragile balance, yet longing to close the space between us. Remnants of our past––harsh words and good intentions––drifted away on our mingled breath. Her gaze drew me in, cradled me halfway between this world and the next.
No longer daughter.
No longer Mother.
Men wearing dark suits wheeled her out of the house, through the living room where my family had gathered, past the rocking chair where Dad sat weeping. I curled up in the hospital bed, tucking her blankets under my chin. Eternity sung me to sleep and Chanel #5 wafted through my dreams.