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.”