Today Was Anything But

“Look, Tracey,” sighed, Mom. “Dads here.”

I leaned in close to Mom’s ear, “I loved Dad,” I said. “Please tell him I loved him very much.”

“Bert,” said Mom, clearing her throat. “Tracey’s here. I’m not feeling well. She’s been wonderful. She loves you. I love you.”

My touch was soft, warm, comforting. In my absence, Mom would reach out to the spot where she expected my hand to be. I quietly sat and observed her instability. Her tired body. Her sharp mind. Her willfulness. She was a woman who understood the predicament she was in. She fought hard to remain by my side, hold my youthful hand, hear my familiar voice.

I offered her water. She asked for a scotch and water.

Five double old fashions perched on a silver tray. Five Fuller’s toasting one last time to good health. One finger of scotch, four fingers water. One cube. One more laugh. One last sip of life. Together.

A stronger woman, I have not known.

Water. Morphine. Crumpled handkerchiefs. Visible bedside supplies. The hospice nurse did not encroach. The baby monitor set on low.

The nurse lived in an adjoining room. She slumbered in a leather olive-green Lazy-Boy recliner. Dad’s coveted Lazy-Boy. Buckskin worn to perfection. His scent billowed long after he had gone. His indentations recognizable. Familiar.

A rose-colored club chair stained with unknown substances was draped with Mom’s Oscar de la Renta ivory embroidered robe. The seat cushion piled high with dated newspapers and fashion catalogs. Bed friends on normal days. Today was anything but.

I sat in a cane-backed antique chair. 1920’s French provincial, a timeworn sagging cushion with fabric that matched her club-chair. The king-sized headboard also upholstered in the identical print. A backdrop to frame Mom in. A stain lingered on the fabric where her head often rested comfortably. The cloth indelibly marked after thirty years of use.

“Quality lasts forever,” she would say. “Always buy quality.”

“Are you warm, Mom?” I asked.

“Close the window, darling. Would you?”

Her pink angora throw slipped off the bed. I shimmied it up to her fingertips and watched her grab one small pink tassel. I tested her strength. Honored her independence. She tugged at the blanket. Brought it close to her chin.

“Thank you, darling.”

“Look, Mom,” I said, pointing to her bedroom door. I waved a young man in. “The UPS guy is here.”

“Mr. Ups,” said, Mom, attempting a smile. “What did you bring me?”

“I don’t know, Mrs. Fuller,” he said. “Want me to open it for you?”

“Yes, darling,” she answered.

Beneath her bedroom window sat a solid oak antique desk. It held a CD player, desk pad, pencil holder and a brass stand filled with loose 4x6 photos. Scissors lay on the desk pad. The young man slid one blade down the center of the box then propped open the remaining flaps. He rested the box on Mom’s delicate lap. I ushered her hand to reach inside. She tugged at the contents but was unable to guide them out.

“Mom,” I said, pulling out the items. “Michael from Neiman Marcus sent you lipstick, eye cream, and a compact.”

I unraveled each item from crispy white tissue paper. I placed them in Mom’s hands.

“Michael knows how I like to look,” she said. She twisted open the lipstick. “Dad loves this color on me.”

Mom unevenly glided the paint across her lips. She dabbed the cream beneath her eyes. She gazed at her image in the round silver compact.

“Lovely shade, darling, isn’t it?” she said, admiring her appearance. “Lois would love it. Send her some, will you, darling?”

“Of course, I will,” I said. “Lois is a dear friend. She will appreciate the gesture.”

Mom’s eyes veered away from mine. Her attention went to the foot of the bed.

“Look, Tracey,” sighed, Mom. “Dads here.”

I leaned in close to Mom’s ear, “I loved Dad,” I whispered. “Please tell him I loved him very much.”