(She left us July 26, 2006-this is a memory for me.)
I’m waiting. Waiting and watching for a breath. I don’t know why I’m here except that I’m drawn to this metal chair to sit and wait. My mother is lying on the white sterile sheets of the nursing home bed, with her eyes open to the ceiling. I’m not sure if she even knows I’m here. The journey to this place and time has been long for all of us. This morning as I was getting ready to leave the house I was torn whether I should go, but my dear husband told me I needed to be with my mother. Damn obligations. The doctors have told us that it could be anytime. Daddy comes by early every morning to see her, so I knew that he had already been there, along with my sister and brother on their way to work.
My mind wanders to memories of mother and the wonders of her. Sitting in the nursing home chair watching her try to breathe I am transported to being a little girl, totally in love with an image that has been replaced by a shriveled body with dingy gray hair and hollow brown unmoving eyes that have developed a bluish film over them. She moans occasionally through her ever open mouth. The nurses call her a “mouth breather”.
When I first arrived this morning I went to the side of her bed and touched her forehead brushing the coarse gray wisps back. She moaned softly what I thought was my name, but that could be wishful thinking. I take my place in the cold uninviting chair and wait. Jumbled visions flood my mind as I sit and watch.
She was the most beautiful mother of all the mothers at elementary school. When she walked into Mrs. Kirk’s fifth grade classroom heads turned. She was delivering cupcakes for the class party that afternoon wearing a tight mandarin collar red dress that had large buttons going down the entire back. The collar cinched around her small neck making her look almost anorexic. Her slim body, even after three children, always looked cute in tight fitting dresses that were in fashion at the time. Even then I was envious of her beauty.
I loved to sit on the toilet in the bathroom and watch her apply her makeup, amazed by the ease with which she changed herself. Her eyes were deep brown, like mine. She accented them with a touch of mascara and a light brush of brown shadow. She would then take a dark brow pencil and fill in her perfectly plucked arched eyebrows. Then with the pencil, she would place it at the corner edge of her right eye on a small mole and carefully spin it between her fingers to make a round dot. She called it her beauty mark. It was the style then and boy was she ever in style.
The final touch was to heavily apply coral lipstick to her full lips. When she had it just right, she would roll her lips back and forth together and make a pop sound. Then, looking in the mirror she would purse the lips together as if to kiss someone. To polish the look, she would take a square of toilet paper, put it between the colored lips and kiss it with another smack, leaving her lip imprint on the square. She would hand me the kissed square and I would look at it amazed by the beauty of the color. Her brown hair was coiffed to perfection and her makeup in place everywhere she went. She had a signature scent, White Shoulders. The floral smell of gardenia and musk would permeate the house after she put it on. It was a sad day when she could no longer stand the effects of perfume or colognes. She seemed to have such a natural and effortless way with her style that I never seemed to develop.
Sometimes she would put a little dab of lipstick on my lips, “Rub your lips together. Now blot on the tissue. There, you want to see.” She would lift me up to the mirror to see but I was saddened to not see a beauty like her.
A quick squirt of the trademark White Shoulders and she was complete. Then she would pick up her cigarette that had been burning on the edge of the sink and inhale deeply. Pulling the cigarette from her coral lips smoke escaped from the butt of the cigarette and her lips then she would exhale the rest of the smoke into the air. I watched as the smoke curled out of her darkened large nostrils and I was truly confused by it. I never really understood the attraction, but she loved her cigarettes.