The best times with Mom happened where I had moved to about a two hour southward drive away from my hometown. We shared my new life in the country, and took naps in the neat sunroom my husband had built onto his house for me.
Most of Mom’s life was about sadness, and when she lost Dad, her sadness grew immensely. I had hoped taking walks and the spending time in the sunroom would cheer her.
In between visits from Mom, I had inherited a brood of orphaned kittens. I nursed them back to health, and naturally they were quite attached to me. When I went hiking, they lined up behind me and trekked through the cornfields, and through the woods behind our acreage never leaving me out of their sight.
During her next visit, Mom seemed to bond with the black and white cat whom I had named Pierre. His markings made him look like a garcon. He had a little pencil mustache, and very charming social graces.
When I saw how much they liked each other, I got the idea that if Mom could have a pet roaming around the house, that it could possibly alleviate some of her grieving.
Mom always told me that I was like an old, wise soul dwelling in a youthful body. This is how I became her confidante beginning in early childhood. Listening to my advice, she took Pierre home with her that day.
Soon after, my competitive sister one-upped my gesture by bringing Mom a pregnant cat. This one was black and white, too.
Quickly growing to full size, a mob of black and white cats roamed their turf. Mom’s house became filled with the playful sounds of five cats thundering in a heard on hardwood floors. Yes, of course, this became a distraction from her grief. How could it not?
At night, they all piled into bed, nestling comfortably around Mom’s full figured body. An anecdote she relayed about this nighttime ritual became an oasis in the desert of sadness.
She described a new behavior when the cats had grown old enough to be territorial. I laughed till I cried envisioning her less than peaceful bedtime of cats hissing and swatting all around her. They finally worked out the nocturnal disputes, with only an occasional lapse of the delineated territories.
Next visit, it was my turn to go to Mom’s house, which I hated because the competitive sister loved to wreak havoc whenever she had the opportunity. She only lived next door to Mom, which was too close for me.
Strangely enough, while I was there, I got a premonition that Mom would be going to wherever Dad went. She had found forgiveness for Dad, and seemed to get some of her earthly relationships straightened around. She spoke happily about these uplifting events. On the same visit, she got obsessed about finding a house key for me.
I had never had a house key before, and I couldn’t understand why she was fussing about this. By the time she riffled through enough drawers, I began to get an uneasy feeling. Precognition set in and I got the definite impression that we both could see foreboding times in our future. Neither of us came out and talked about it, though.
We spent the last part of the afternoon sitting on her couch, listening to Tommy Dorsey and the Glen Miller Band – holding hands. I left for home before dark.
After that visit, I was barely home for a day and a half when I got the phone call from my brother. Holding back tears, and sounding angry, he told me about Mom’s stroke.
I joined my four siblings at the hospital, and saw Mom alive for the last time. I thought I saw recognition in her eyes when she gestured to her mouth as if thirsty when she saw me.
We waited for her doctor to return from out of town. Should we try a surgery to remove the clot in her brain? My thinking remained in the same state of premonition that had come upon me two days before. I knew the doctor wouldn’t make it back in time. My two sisters drove back and forth to the hospital to find him, and they were mad at me for not going along.
I just wanted to be in Mom’s house, and be around her lovely colors, and things, and that’s where I stayed. When I first unlocked the door, I could see the cats sulking around. They no longer tromped the hardwood floors. I just left them alone, and wandered through the house, saving up memories at the same time.
I went into Mom’s little bath off her bedroom where we used to put on our makeup together. I was gazing in the mirror and comparing how I looked like Mom except for having Dad’s turn down eyes when I glimpsed a shadowy, quick movement.
In the background from the mirror view, I saw one of the cats jump onto Mom’s white bedspread. Then came another, and one more, till all five were gathered there. They formed into their nighttime sleeping positions, leaving white bedspread showing through in the middle. The white space illustrated the form of Mom’s full figure in the negative space between them.
I knew then, it was time to go to the hospital to say goodbye.