”Aloha!“ she sings brightly, her voice high and sweet as a child’s. She learned the word when we took her on a trip to Hawaii some ten years ago, and she prefers it now to ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’. So do I.
“Join me,” she says.
She is lying on her back on the bed, her knees drawn up to her chest, her eyes closed, rocking gently. I lay down next to her and draw my knees up.. She leans over to rest her head against my shoulder. I close my eyes and smile. Separated by miles, we don’t see each other often enough to take such moments for granted. We keep finding excuses to touch each other, although we don’t really need any. We are too well aware of time as a gift and that every goodbye could easily be our last.
She takes my hand. Her fingers are long and smooth and cool as polished stone, comforting to the touch. They are like marble.
“Mom, you have no fingerprints,” I say.
“No. They must have worn off.”
“Great! Now you can commit the perfect crime.” We ponder the possibilities.
“I could rob a bank,” she ventures. We consider.
“Well, I was thinking more along the lines of a fabulous jewel heist. Or the perfect murder.” I think of my nasty next door neighbors.
“Oh, no! I don’t think I could kill anybody.” Hmn. Too bad.
“OK. We’ll do the bank thing. We certainly need the money. I could drive the getaway car. But see, that’s a problem; it’s not the execution of the theft I’m worried about ~ it’s the getaway. You’re not exactly Speedy Gonzales, you know. Fingerprints won’t matter; they’d nab you at some point during the 45 minutes it takes you to wobble to the curb.” We laugh.
She uses an aluminum walker all the time now. She has spondylosis, among other symptoms of advanced aging. Her spine is losing fluid and fusing; her posture forms a permanent U-turn. She faces the ground when she walks. She hates this infirmity; it embarrasses her. When her synapses aren’t entirely firing, she thinks she’s being recycled.
“What’s that thing that I am?” she asks, not for the first time, as we’re looking for a parking space at Randall’s Market. “Recycled? Get my sticker out of the glove compartment so we can park in ‘Recycling’…oh, no. That’s not the right word… what word am I looking for?”
"Handicapped, Ma. The word is 'handicapped.' But I prefer 'recycled.'
She smiles. "Yeah. So do I."