Lauri Conner


When I was nine my mother stepped off a plane from Chicago. 

She had just returned from burying on of her siblings and jet lagged

she collapsed in the car.  At first I thought she was grieving.

That life for her had been this burden she would have to carry.

But then it shifted when my father said for the third time:  Get out

of the car Lauri Get out of the car, but I wasn’t moving because

she didn’t.  Her left side drooping and listless and I had to say it:

Daddy something is wrong—Mama don’t look so good  and he pulled

me by my stick arm and made me go into the house.  I still remember

sitting guard by the couch where she laid not letting anyone tend her. 

I would transcribe the intention of her scrawling into what I needed:

a blanket, two pillows, some juice with lots of ice.  She would spend

three days in the hospital at a time when kids couldn’t go in to speak

with their ill parents.  Banished to the waiting room I charmed

the nurses.  Even then I knew the power of a perfectly placed smirk. 

Nurse Fitch let me hide on the cart where they kept the sodas and she

strategically placed it at my mothers door.  And even now we laugh

about it, my mother and I, cause neither of us really remember that I

was never in the car and the collapse happened on the couch.  It was

the charge by my sergeant father to take care of my mother who stroke

stricken drooled and payback is never that sweet.  I tell her how I

remember sneaking in to see her and she reminds me that hospitals

smell of death and I was always running from it.  How nurse Fitch

was really my social studies teacher who held my hand when I refused

to pray to a god who would strike down my mother.  I know now that

she wasn’t grieving but holding the weight of generations and stories

needing to be told.  That losing brothers and sisters is never easy

when they are all you have in this world, the links to a passed past.

That sometimes stroke works like memory, paralyzing and needing

work to return from.  I like my story better, I tell my mother on the eve

of my brother’s birthday and she says “Yes, I’m glad I didn’t die too.”