It was one of those rare departures from home, the kind only Doc seemed to be able to pull out of me. Meandering with her through scenery previously only seen on TV, I relished the brief moment I could forget my entire life and just be a girl in a nice pair of jeans. No one really cared what I thought and we all nodded politely, except when that kid pissed me off with his republican shenanigans. (But that's another story.)
However, even travels to far away lands offer moments and memories of familiarity. A ramshackle house, a long picnic table booming with food, much to drink and smart minds eager to speak. And as people drifted in and out of inlets and kitchens a friend and I found ourselves alone with another guest.
She was a New York sparrow. Looked delicate and cute, but was tough as nails, could survive anything and had.
It wasn't the champagne that loosened tongues and poured story into waiting ears. It was the heart.
Years ago, her mother fell ill. She did what we had all done - picked up the reins of care and the slow and fast osmosis of changing places - from daughter to mother and from mother to daughter - began.
One day an opportunity arose for the mother to take a shower. It seems that taking a shower at the place she lived in was no longer an option. The mother and daughter were going to a home where there was a stall big enough to accommodate the mother's walker or wheelchair, can't remember which.
So the mother asked if, when they got there, could the Sparrow give her a shower?
Can you imagine having to ask your child to bath you?
The Sparrow of course readily agreed. But then realized this shower would require her to be in the stall with her mother. It would be an intimacy never before exchanged between them. It wasn't that they didn't like or love one another. They very much did. But there wasn't that warmth and physical affection so often seen on Leave it to Beaver. Or Father Knows Best. Or even Star Trek.
So she packed a swim suit so she could get in the shower with her mom.
When the time came, and the water poured and the mother was carefully situated, the Sparrow, snug in her suit stepped into the shower.
There is a moment with a parent where you see a sudden nakedness that goes beyond skin and breasts and tufts of hair in quiet places. Our moms, our grandfather, our aunt our heart our soul our life no longer lived as a child because that child now lived in the rounded shoulder or paper thin fragile skin a hand full of tremors the eyes tired resigned to the greater need to be cleaned and the desperation to not be humiliated in the process the hope some dignity could still clothe the soul...
... The Sparrow looked at her swimsuit wondered at the barrier she had placed between this woman her mother and herself wondered what was it about seeing her mother naked and then having her mother see her naked at this point in life she was 60 her mother near 90 what was it that had put the suit between them in the first place...
She slipped off her swimsuit now them both naked in this shower, she began gently soaping her mom and and she said they started to laugh and weep and laugh and weep and laugh until there was no difference between the tears pouring from shower heads and those from brokenhearted eyes.
*** Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin; Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within. -- Charles Wesley
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.
In Memoriam: Lloyd M. Rucker, 1957-2013
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