Posted on | December 31, 2013 | 2 Comments
Most years, my childhood home looks like a snapshot of a Norman Rockwell painting at Christmas time. If it stays still long enough, almost anything and everything is decorated with greenery or bows or something that sparkles or shimmers. There’s a North Pole village complete with snow and flickering lights, a perfectly decorated dining room table, and a tree that could stop traffic.
This year was different, though. This year, my mom scaled back because she was scheduled for surgery just after the holidays. When I got to North Carolina, I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see her with a cane. Her hip has been bad for a while but she always pushed through… doing everything for everyone the way she always has. She’s my mother, you know. She’s infinite and always. She’s immortal and immoving. She’s … my mom.
We met up in the small town of Tarboro to see my Grandmother, my mother’s mother, who was in the hospital for heart troubles and short term memory loss.
My grandmother looked old at almost 90 years of age.
Older than I remember her ever looking because she’s never stepped even one foot in the sun without a hat to shield her skin. We visited for a while in the hospital and moved on to lunch, all the while something about my own mother triggering something unexplained in the back of my mind… something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it was the way she kissed the paperwhite skin on my grandmother’s face, or the way she sank slowly into the chair by the bed. Maybe it was just the shorter hair or the drag in her step. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something about her… something big. I drove us down the streets of her hometown, pointing out decorated houses and reminiscing about the times my Granddaddy had taken us with him to string the lights through the park in the town square, and the times he’d proudly perched my sister and I on bar stools at the Suburban Grille and announced to anyone who would listen that we were his grandbabies.
My grandfather passed when I was in law school, his “uniform” of faded blue jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt forever laid to rest alongside his thick-soled black Reebok-style tennis shoes that he was nearly never without. He had seemed so old to me then, as old as my Grandmother seemed now, with his clay jar full of canes and umbrellas and his teeth that popped out of his mouth with purposeful abandon. He had seemed so old.
We ate lunch at a little restaurant in the quaint Tarboro downtown then headed back to see my Grandmother one more time before we headed home. It was there in the hospital that second time that the tickle in the back of my mind blossomed into a sigh and a thought and I couldn’t help but squeeze my mother one extra time, just because.
As I watched my mom move slowly down the hallway to her own mother’s room, her cane lightly beside her for balance, her hip bothering her more than she might even let on… my eyes lingered for a moment on her feet.
Thick black soles. Dark black laces. Woman sized but still…
She was wearing my Granddaddy’s shoes.