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.