This Magic Moment

Published by GrahamLewis in the blog Reflections on My Golden River. Views: 99

My mother is dying.

Not of any particular affliction, but, as she will be the first to tell you, of old age. She's 97 years old, curled up by back issues, knees shot, only one kidney, wispy white hair, eyes that reflect light in brightness, wrinkled skin, and a smile that is both sweet and pensive. She's blessed -- or perhaps cursed -- with a genetic tendency toward long life. Her dad died at 95, her brothers lived into their 80s, and so on; they all kept a full head of hair all their lives; I appear to be of that line, since my hair is as full as ever, at 71.

But mom is dying now. On her birthday a few weeks past she suddenly slipped into panic-filled confusion, and went to the ER, and from there back home, then back to ER the next week, and is now waiting an opening for assisted living, the part of life she always proudly avoided. But that's where she'll have to be now. She can't be on her own anymore, and soon, I'm sure, can't be anywhere. And she's good with that.

I drove down to see her and we had some gentle and warming conversations. Memories of old days, talk of her grandkids and great-grandkids. At one point she looked at me and said, as though remembering something important, "you were my first-born." That's a chronological fact, but I think she meant more than that. We both found ourselves looking back at those first three years of my life, when she was everything to me, and I was everything new to her about being a parent. The vague memories that rose up in me brought me to tears and to gratitude. And being able to see her again like that was a gift I will never forget.

After three days I had to leave, and I doubt I will be seeing her again, except at the very end or very near it, since it's obvious the light is fading. But she's at peace about it and, because of that, so I am I.

She had me dig out a shoebox full of pictures out a cabinet and take it with me, so it didn't get lost in the shuffle of closing out her apartment. It's a mix of things, most from the 70s and 80s, a few much older. The house I was born in, and so on.

Many of the photos are from the ten or so years she and my dad spent on a rural farmstead after he retired, a place I loved and wish now I had had the money then to buy and keep in the family. And there's dad and my aunts and uncles, and the barn cats and mom and dad's dogs. All that I expected and am glad to have found again.

I didn't expect the way my own earlier life welled up from those photos, the dog my first wife and I had, my oldest daughter in her youngest days, photos I hadn't seen in years; all of a time I had largely walled away in my heart. I'd forgotten, I'm sad to say, the power that a first-born can pull from one's heart. It's so easy to lose that magic in the everyday life that follows, and I so glad, so blessed, that I have been able to re-discover that now, before I'm at the edge; when I have time to remember and make good use of that magic.

I'll miss her greatly, but I'll always treasure having had the life with her, and the chance to re-discover the magic.

And I have my own first-born to treasure.
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