The Day

You and I went to the National Zoo. You couldn’t talk, so I’d brought pens and paper. It was a wet Spring day.

We parked in the lot near Rock Creek and walked across the bridge. We stopped, and I asked you where you wanted to go. You smiled and nodded, but you couldn’t talk.

You were dying. And you were losing your mind. You were so smart — your thesis on Hannah Arendt, your work on Proust and Gadamer and Joyce and Heidegger, your graduate degrees in Comparative Literature and Library Science and Management — and you made me want to be smart, to be like you, and you brought me home all those books. And then while you died it was cartoons and Andy Griffith while we funneled protein shakes into the tube that went into your belly. Because you were losing your mind and cartoons were what made you happy.

It was a wet, gray day. I asked you what animals you wanted to see. And I gave you the pen and the pad of paper and you were laughing at me in that silent way with your mouth open. And you wrote your answer and I remember the green of Rock Creek Park and the Zoo all around and you laughing because you were teasing me, because you were having fun with me, and you knew it. You gave me back the pen and the pad of paper.

BATS, it said.

And you laughed soundlessly when you saw me read it.

So we went and saw the bats.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you.

The Day

9 thoughts on “The Day

  • May 15, 2006 at 8:20 am

    I’m glad you’ve got this wonderful memory.

  • May 15, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    wow. This version is so spare that it hits me right in the heart. Finishing your diss must be bittersweet because your mother won’t be able to share the joy of your graduation. But I know that she is with you in spirit, cheering you on.

  • May 15, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    I wish I had a memory of this sort of my mother, and she’s still alive. There are a few memories that spring to mind though, like the time she said “caught you with your pants down, didn’t I?” and being the teen I was, I thought she had, uh, you know, caught me with my pants down. There are a few others, but none with the poignancy you’ve expressed.

    Alng the same lines though, we spent the day clearing furniture out of my later mother-in-law’s house. She died at our house over Thanksgiving holiday, succumbing to her cancer. It was the best a situation of that sort could be, but I know it was much harder on Rachel, my wife, than it will ever be for me, even were it my own mother. Take care.

  • May 15, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    Wow, this gets to me. It’s beautiful. And so loving.

  • May 17, 2006 at 12:47 am

    I knew, after the day passed, that you would post something like this. You know that I never even knew my real father who was killed at 21. My Mother’s Day post was nowhere nearly as poignant (or puncturing, spearing, really), and was actually deleted and revisited, etc. But then again, we deal with ever-changing relationships and the emotional turmoil that comes with the living. I’m thankful to be alive and to have my kids. Thankfulness doesn’t preclude messiness.

    You are a good son. Your mom was lucky to have you.

  • May 18, 2006 at 12:22 am

    I wrote it, posted it, and almost deleted it several times over. It felt — still feels — too raw, too unguarded, too close to the bone to say out loud.

    I’ll let it stand, though. Lessons taken from Shelly and John L. about writing and risk; from Julie Lindquist about affect, work, and value.

  • May 18, 2006 at 1:39 am

    It is raw and unguarded. That’s why it means something. It’s the truth. It’s your truth. In all its vehemence.

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