She has to shimmy her way up and onto the high back bar stool. Once perched there, we realize she is too far away, so she has to carefully climb off, scoot up the stool, and then scale back up until her rump is squarely on the seat.
I hadn't realized I was holding my breath as I watched. She refused my offer to push her chair in for her. I just wanted her to be able to reach her food without trouble or spilling half of it into her lap or down the front of her green shamrock sweater. It was my idea to eat at the bar rather than wait for a table, and as I watch her shakily make her way up, I wonder if it wouldn't have been smarter (and safer) to just wait the twenty minutes.
Slowly, I exhale and we chat about the next couple days. You see I have my mother on loan to me from my baby sister, and I want to make the most out of our time together. Being the fifth born of seven children, I have always cherished time spent alone with my mother. My father died when I was nine, leaving our upbringing solely to her. As you can imagine, stolen moments of one-on-one were few and far between. Now she lives several states away, she just turned seventy-seven, and I'm still vying for her attention like I am 14 instead of 40.
Thankfully, she has spent more time in Missouri as of late, and I have my beautiful new nephew to thank for that. Let me translate, she comes to get her wizened hands on this nine-month-old baby and to heck with the rest of us! And I don't blame her. Wyatt brings a joy to all he encounters with his smile and laid back demeanor, with his tiny hand wave and infectious giggle. He's just now mastering, "Uh-oh!" and it's hilarious to hear his every approximation. We haven't had a baby in the family for six years, and I suspect my mother worries that she might not be around to know the next.
Right now, I am bathing in my mom's full attention, but I'm also struggling with something and it isn't the enormous breakfast burrito that was just placed before me. I guess I'm struggling with the inevitable. Her frailty and declining health slug me in the gut with each and every visit. I desperately push these thoughts to the back of my mind, but they linger there like a nasty cold you just can't kick.
When I was a kid, she didn't seem so small, but now she's shrinking. She no longer even measures five feet, and I feel like an Amazon princess walking next to her in all my 5'4" glory. I have to force myself to slow my gait when walking next to her so that she doesn't lose her breath resulting in an asthma attack or coughing fit as she tries to keep up. Just this morning on our way into the restaurant, she reached for my hand. I like to think she just wanted to hold it like when I was a little girl, but I also wonder if she wanted the extra support as we wove our way through the parking lot.
She recently liberated herself from chemically coloring her hair and is now veiled in a beautiful white halo. It was a little shocking at first, but I have really come to like it. She looks more and more like her own mother every day, especially as she nods off on the couch with her head leaned back and her slack jaw and parted lips. The best is her puffer-snores. They aren't the deep throated rumbles, but rather like she has to work hard to push out her exhales is gentle little puffs.
"Mom, why don't you go lie down for a nap?"
"No, no, I'm not sleeping. I'm just resting my eyes," she always replies even though she sometimes wakes herself with her own snores and then sheepishly looks around asking if we heard her.
All this flashes through my mind as she sits perched on the stool next to me smiling and spreading butter on her pancakes before drizzling syrup on one section at a time. She offers me a bite and it's delicious.
And so is this moment alone with my mommy, and I consciously choose to linger in the sweetness of it.