Monday, June 6, 2011

Bird songs

The breeze is light and refreshing, an evening mojito in the air. Mom persuades me to come with her for a walk to the popular Golden Garden steps, where the sweat of many Seattle fitness enthusiasts, hardcore trainers or athletic wannabes mingle. Of course, it doesn't require much persuasian, after feeling in a near vegetable state the past five days on opiate painkillers. I could use the movement and she could use the motivational support.

We stroll. She's talking about concerns with her memory loss again. I'm immediately on edge. So quickly it happens, this rapid descent. It tumbles out in irritation, but I know it for what it is. Fear.

Ever since Papa died, I've heard the concern in her voice about memories lost. Simple things, and not so simple things. I hear the panic straining, pushing back. I want to brush it off. Reassure her, it's just grief. Stress, grief, trauma, they affect our brains. They can affect memory. I know this from my studies, from people I've worked with. But seeing it in my mom, hearing it in her voice, the fear niggles.

We reach the stairs, and I take the bench.

The thought finally materializes like a black vapor: But when? When will the next tragedy strike?

I sigh with the invisible elbow that lovingly pokes my side. I know. I know. I have to let go, have to live now.

I watch her back, heading for the stairs, until those red curls peeking out beneath her pink baseball hat disappear with each bounce.

I cheer her on as she takes on the steep flight of stairs, five times. She's on a roll tonight, and I smile. Our conversation home, I hear her voice cutting in and out of my thoughts. She just said "Lexus" or "Toyota" but I have no idea why. My thoughts are still on Alzheimer's or dementia. On what would be worse, losing her quickly like my dad or gradually watching her slip away over years, memories gone before her body?

I shake myself out of this dark cloud. I must practice another way to live than fear. Reaching for her arm, I remember. She is here, now. But I am not, and I can change that. I can choose trust.

"Listen to those birds," I breathe. "They sound so happy."

"They do what God created them to do and they do it so well." Mom doesn't miss a beat.

"Rain or shine." I envy them for that. I could learn a thing or two from the birds.

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