Kim calls them parlor games. One that has kept her entertained for months is to quite deliberately smile full on at extremely attractive people. She gets endless delight in seeing confident golden people get so confused.
This one is less fun but she can’t seem to shake it.
“So, there are going to be times when I’m sitting, strapped into my geri-chair, drooling and rocking and, hopefully someone will have changed me into dry clothes again, and there I am, witless and gone and then I’ll think about this moment. How cold your feet are right now even though the room is warm and we’re under the covers. And I’ll…”
But it’s too late. Even without the baby walkie talkie, little Itzak’s bellows yank both Kim and Point out of bed like puppets. This parenting thing sounded good in theory. At least the kid is usually pretty good about going back to sleep. All it takes is some cooing and jiggling.
“So? Ready to start on another?” Point grins, holding the baby and bobbing up and down gently.
Kim almost doesn’t hear him; she’s hoarding everything about the moment. The smell of their skin, the way the street light picks out the grinning doll babies, the shift of Point’s hips as he rocks their son back to sleep. It’s passing too quickly. She can’t grab everything. She’s cupping the back of Itzak’s tiny head almost in a panic. She can almost feel the ping of new connections winding through the little wad of gray in there.
The baby turns to look at her and, for the first time, his eyes focus on her and he knows. He knows her.
“Ok, champ. Time to let the old folks sleep.” Point breaks the spell in the very nick of time. Kim’s throat unlocks and she could weep. It’s gone. It will never be back. Itzak will be cradling his own grandchildren and never, ever remember this moment, the moment he looked at his mother and knew her to be her and himself to be himself.
Separate now and never again to be joined.
Itzak hated going but went every week. The place he and Gracie had finally settled on was well lit, clean and the staff seemed to care about their charges. The rain eased up as he pulled into the lot. One more good storm and that would be the last of the leaves. The stubborn sugar maple at the far end of the lot held onto its brilliant rags. He wished he could pry Gracie loose of her need for “seasons”. Once Mother was gone it would so great to live where there was no winter.
“Hi Mister C.! Your mom’s in the sun room. She seems better today.”
The cheery hallway was lined with the rocking, muttering, slumping, complaining, grinning, drooling remnants of human beings. No amount of disinfectant would ever get the stale old-person piss stink out of this place for Itzak. He got his weekly smile from Mrs. Pearsley at the reception desk as he handed over one of the two bouquets he always brought.
Would Mother remember who he was this week? It had been touch and go for about a month now. He nodded as he made his way down the hallway toward the day room trying to remember that these were actual people. In spite of the gray day, light spilled out of the day room along with creaky laughter. Old Missus Manx must be holding court. He approved of Missus Manx and her rude, winking humor and vastly preferred Mother be in there rather than out in the hallway of the damned.
“Good morning, ladies.” He automatically got very gallant in the presence of elderly ladies in wheel chairs and had to check himself before sweeping into a grand bow.
“Ah, Mister C.! Missus Campbell, woman, wake up. Your boy is here. Such lovely flowers. Is it still warm out?”
“Not as warm as yesterday, Missus M. Hello, Mother.” He knelt next her and touched her arm. My God, she was nothing but sticks and skin. How could this slumped pile of angles and points be alive? But she was and presently she stirred, slowly raising her wavering head.
“How do you feel today, Mother?” He set the bouquet in her lap. And waited. What was going on in there? Slowly something like focus was happening in those tired, old eyes but it was an illusion. He set the flowers on the table and folded her hand into his, wondering where she was.
“Point?” She peered closely into his face and then smiled. “I knew you’d come for me.”
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