I had known deep losses in my life, a husband, a father and a sister in a way. The ache that now arose, twisting, winding, through my queasy stomach and up my scratchy throat, in that moment, felt the same.
The election was over. My candidate. The candidate for the many “hers” in my life had lost. Texts, messages, emails stampeded through my every thought, kicking up dust, leaving only more smog.
I paused long enough to stop my stress-eating.
What would I say to all the “hers” in my life? My bonus daughters, my nieces, my writing sisters, my Januzzi sisters, the sister with whom I shared a soul. What would I say to the main “her” in my life, Mom?
I wanted to budge, needed to move through my day. Many, many to do’s awaited. Packing for a flight at 6 a.m., dropping off the dog at the sitter, paying the bills that trickled in, brushing up a manuscript that always required retouching.
And Mom. Sigh. Mom.
I needed to restock her supplies – how I delicately referred to her air freshener and Depends. But also, Mom. Seeing Mom.
I dropped one foot from the stool. Then the next. I leashed the dog. Took him outside. Watched him pee. Grabbed my purse. “She”, my candidate, had to move forward, consider and concede. I did too.
I discovered Mom, busily arranging plastic flowers in a wicker basket. To clarify, Mom was arranging not by any attempt to organize the flowers, but to chew on them instead. I knew that maneuver. It is one she undertakes when agitated or completely confused.
I greeted her with a tired hug. “Mom. Hi,” I muttered from behind.
She turned around and gave me a hardened look. I swore she always knew when I was taking leave.
I tried smiling directly into her eyes, like sunlight – appealing to her now tunnel-like vision.
“Hi,” Mom finally drew out. Then she proceeded to march up and down and all around the quieted hallways.
Our next hour was a combination of Laurel and Hardy, Helen Keller and Charlie Chaplin actions, exchanging words and gestures with Mom, her shouting, me cringing. Calling into one ear, leaning into the other.
Finally, Mom lowered her softening body into a rigid kitchen chair.
From the nearby table, I reached for a baby doll with pink, flirty pants, one of many that floated around the care home like Elf on a Shelf at Christmas. I placed the doll in Mom’s arms and she quickly lifted the “baby” into the left crook of her neck.
From her right, I leaned down. “Mom, I’ve got to get home. I’ll see you later.” I gulped. “Later” meant after I finished traveling.
“Ok, honey,” Mom said, forgiving me for the sin of leaving I was about to commit. She pulled me into the other side of her neck.
I could smell that day’s layer of lotion on her skin. For minutes, I was bent over into my mother’s chest and we breathed each other in.
My gaze was pointed down when I noticed a familiar bump, right above her breastbone. I reached up and touched my same bump.
“This is home,” I murmured to Mom, still partly in her embrace.
Yes, that’s what I would say to all the “hers” in my life. Find a space that is home. Find that part that still connects one to another. Therein lies the strength.
“I am home,” I said to Mom once more, before dislodging my arms, carrying with me my mother’s fortitude as a gift to the “hers” in my life.