Courage at Twilight: A Still and Silent Pen

My pen has been still and silent.  No pleasant scratching of the nib with Shoreline Gold on porous paper.  No clicking of the keys.  But my mind?  Though my tongue is quiet, my mind screams what cannot be written for want of vocabulary, for want of courage, and for fear of offending the innocent.  I spent a week away, helping family move along a flip house toward the closing that will pay the debts and determine the quarter’s income.  I painted, schlepped, installed vanity lighting in three bathrooms, and installed six ceiling fans, dubbing myself the Ceiling Fan King.  Jeanette worked with me, cutting, twisting, and splicing wire, holding parts aloft for long periods of time while I installed insanely difficult-to-insert screws, bolting on fan blades (making sure the right color faced down), and leveling light bars, and by some miracle our record of correct installation, meaning the lights came on, was 11 for 11.  And my sighs of relief were 11 times audible and sincere.  And then the time came to leave for home, the home I cannot seem to make my own because it is not my own, but someone else’s, in which I borrow a small space, in which I produce culinary delights, with flops here and there—which Mom and Dad still call brilliant—because I’m not a nurse but a general problem solver and cook.  And I am shouting again because they do not wear their hearing aids and I would rather shout that say everything twice with a “What’s that?” in between.  And Dad dictates the news as he reads it from the New York Times: 35,000 Russian men seeking asylum to escape conscription for Putin’s aggressions in Ukraine; former President Trump’s latest lunacy; the ongoing hunt for dark matter.  And Dad says again the absurdly obvious, “Lucille, I’m getting weaker.”  Last week, Mom gave me a page from her 1983 journal, written when I was 18 years old, after I left home for college, when a mother’s heart broke for the first departure of her firstborn.  “I miss Roger,” she wrote.  “There are so many things a mother feels for her children.  They are just very dear to her.  She remembers nursing them as tiny infants, carrying them around as little children, making cakes and going on walks, helping them in school, etc.  She remembers hugs and kisses and little things they made for her.  Then the children leave, and it is hard for her.  The empty bedroom, the missing place at the table, all the little things that were fixed or made better by them.  At the same time, it is right that children leave.  They grow and become independent and contributing adults.  That’s the way of it.  Roger will always be a part of me and I will always love him.”  I do not think I have ever read a sweeter rumination about the pining sweetness of a mother for her child.  And here I sit, home again—to stay—at 58, a full 40 years after leaving that first time, and Mom remembers my leaving still and appreciates my coming home all the more, and calls me “Dear” and “Baby” and asks me to text her when I get safely to work, and asks about my day when I come home, and has a problem or two for me to solve, which I solve, and clings to me sweetly with the softest skin of an old woman’s hands.  And the next time one of us leaves home, it will be her, and I will miss her, and I will gaze into the empty bedroom, and I will remark the missing place at the kitchen table.  And I will write my feelings about it all, though for a while my pen will be as still, and as silent, as the empty house.

(Pictured above, Mom at 82 holding great-grandson Wiggy.)

5 thoughts on “Courage at Twilight: A Still and Silent Pen

I would enjoy hearing from you. Please drop me a line.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s