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A Mother’s Smile

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A lucky handful of women my age still have their mothers.
At twenty-two I lost mine. And I didn’t truly miss her until years later.
Moments ago, that admission fell out of my head onto the paper. Kerplunk. My stomach aches and I’m embarrassed.
Numerous times I’ve asked myself, why it took so long to miss her?

The answer circles my thoughts, hidden amongst the shiny distractions. Shadows are sometimes hard to see. Forgotten places where self-loathing hides.

Picture a self-focused, immature girl.  That was me.

I wouldn’t say I didn’t care about my mom’s battle with cancer. More a fear of standing to close and witnessing her diminished frame, weak eyes saying something I couldn’t’ bare to see. She was dying. Yet my thoughts lingered on how this affected me. Would my eyes reveal the horrible possibilities jumbled in my mind? What if she doesn’t make it? What if I’m left alone?

What if anxiety consumes me and I puddle on the floor?

Fears holds people at arm’s length. Unsaid words settle between us, widening the distance. Oh, how I wish I would have held her hand. Asked about the big C. Said I’m sorry.

Many times, I sputtered past her house, a lookie-loo, afraid to venture inside. Sharp stones ripped at my belly. I couldn’t suck in enough air. Only when I motored away, a good block or two, the pain subsided.

One sunny day, a temperate breeze lifted my spirits. I pulled up my big girl panties, found a brave face and sat beside her on the couch. I rubbed her legs. Pain pooled in the creamy hallows around her eyes. For a time, her mouth gaped, absent of words. Then she smiled. A faint wobbly smile, slow to hold, as if the mere act took effort.

It was the best day ever.

The day I chose to remember.

If I could go backward, I would demand a do-over. But the truth is I did my best; or at least the 1983 version of my best.

A smile, they say, is worth a thousand words.

I agree.

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