It was one of those rare departures from home, the kind only Doc seemed to be able to pull out of me. Visiting a ramshackle house with a long picnic table booming with food, almost much to drink and smart minds to enjoy, I found myself unexpectedly 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 relief of finding another who understood.
Years ago, the Sparrow’s mother fell ill. The Sparrow picked up the reins of care and began the sometimes slow and often much too fast changing of places - the daughter becoming the mother and the mother becoming the daughter.
Soon taking a shower at the place the mother lived in was no longer an option. The tub was insurmountable, the shower stall too small.
One day the mother and the Sparrow got invited to a home which had a shower stall big enough to accommodate the mother's walker.
The sponge baths had been O.K., but to have a real shower…could the Sparrow give her a shower? the mother asked.
Can you imagine having to ask your child to bathe you? Can you imagine washing your mother’s vagina and anus?
The Sparrow said of course. Of course she would. It was then she realized this shower would require her to be in the stall with her mother. That was an intimacy they had never before shared.
It wasn't that they didn't like each other or love each other. They did very much so. But it wasn’t that kind of warmth and physical affection so often seen on Leave it to Beaver or The Partridge Family. Or even Star Trek.
So the Sparrow packed a swimsuit so she could get in the shower with her mom.
When the time came and the mother was carefully situated and the water was pouring down, the Sparrow, snug in her suit, stepped into the shower.
There is that moment with an ailing or elderly parent where their sudden nakedness fills your eyes and goes beyond skin and breasts and and scrotum and tufts of hair in quiet places. That is the moment you are never to be their child again.
And so it was with the Sparrow. The privilege of being a daughter now lived in rounded shoulders, paper-thin fragile skin, a hand full of tremors and very tired eyes. All that was left was the greater need to be clean and a desperation to not be humiliated in the process -a clinging to hope that, in such nakedness, some dignity might still clothe the soul...
... The Sparrow looked down at her swimsuit and wondered at the barrier she had placed between her and her mother. She wondered what it was at this point in life about seeing her mother naked and having her mother see her naked. She was 60, her mother near 90. What was it that had put the suit between them in the first place...
She slipped the suit off, and with both of them now naked, she began to gently soap up her mom. And as she did, they both started to laugh and weep and laugh and weep and laugh until there was no difference between what poured from the shower head and what poured from their hearts.
*** 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.