In a still photograph, the movement of leaning in and pulling apart appear the same. Drawing the letter O, there is a moment before beginning and end are joined and cease to exist.
She is immersed in the primordial consciousness of her limbic system. I witness and wait, as she shows me how to do this last thing, how to lean in and pull apart, how to complete the circle.
Her neural pathways that once contained the idea of me have shrunk and disappeared. We spend our days in silence now. Sometimes, she raises her head, looks directly into my eyes, searches for something, touches my cheek, and is gone again. I find a patch of sun on the floor, push her to it, and we sit together breathing, her hand wrapped in mine. I study our hands. They look nearly the same.
Lunch takes close to two hours. One spoonful, a pause, another. Like a mother bird, I lightly touch a spot on her upper lip, and she opens her mouth. I insert the spoon, fitted with a bite of food sculpted to catch behind her teeth and remain when the spoon is quickly withdrawn. As she begins to tire, I insert a bite of sweet dessert. Her eyes light up. She rewards me with her smile. I return to shaping spoonfuls of ground turkey. In this way, I get her to eat about 90% of her meal. Once upon a time, she used this tactic with me. I remember the taste of chocolate pudding mixed with cold mashed potato, or think I do.
We rest together. She naps. I stroke her hair and listen to her breathe, feel the preciousness of breath, knowing that this will be a memory soon. We are bound together, as we have been bound together for almost sixty years. We began with me as the one immersed in primordial limbic consciousness, while she was the one who witnessed and waited, neither of us knowing what would come next, and we are finishing our circle in the reverse. We’ve been swimming beneath the ice in one anothers’ clasp for so long. Now she is letting go, and I will keep swimming, not lighter, but heavier without her weight.
When I leave her this time, she is on her side, curled into herself. I sit on the floor next to her bed, rest my head on her shoulder, put my mouth near her ear, and speak softly. Mom, I have to go. She has not been able to say my name in two years, yet she begins to cry. I do too. It was good to see you, I say. She replies, yes. It is hard for you to be here. Yes. I am so sorry. I love you. Thank you, she says. We stay like that, my face in her hair, holding on in the dark, mother bear and cub, circled around one another in the den, in preparation for a long winter sleep.
words and image created by greenheron c 2011