I visit mom every Sunday at 2 pm. Like clockwork, she calls at 1:45 to check the status of my arrival. Is there traffic today? Do you think you'll be a few minutes early? Because if so, meet me in the dining room.
Lunch is served between the hours of 12-2pm, and I know mom anticipates the chocolate bar I bring every week to satisfy her sweet tooth. I try to buy a variety: dark, light, raspberry, mint. The Godiva blood orange is her favorite. Always was.
I eat so much baked fish here, she tells me. Why can't they provide chocolate desserts more often?
I sign in and meet mom in the lobby. Her color is paler today and she moves particularly slow. It's the back pain, she says, rather resigned. She says she hasn't been sleeping all that well.
We move to the two big arm chairs in the far right corner. I go into more detail about the past week, more than a phone conversation can hold, and tell her about Julie's college major - she decided to go with Public Relations-- and Robert's pesky cold now that the weather is changing. We love summer but autumn is coming, whether we're ready for it or not.
When I tell her about the upcoming anniversary trip to the Cape, a quiet lingers behind the enthusiasm.
You're not going to visit next Sunday then?
It's hard to hear the lonely crack in her voice.
I hear a harrowing cough followed by a long groan. I look over to see an elderly man, pained and disoriented, who is abruptly waking up from his nap in the chair. I quickly avert my gaze while a nurse walks over.
When I was a young girl, my mom always gave me her homemade chicken soup whenever I didn't feel well. She'd lay out the bowl of soup and a plate of plain toast on a tray and brought it to my bedside. She sat with me until I was done.
If I woke up in the night from an awful coughing spell, she'd come to my room with a cup of hot water and lemon. She would tell me to sit up and sip the water with a spoon until it cools down.
I hated being sick, but I was merely comforted by my mom's presence; by the fact that she stayed awake while I was awake.
When I felt unsettled, when my anxieties bubbled to the surface, she'd tell me to think of happy memories.
Remember our trip to Pennsylvania? The night swims with Matt, the tunnel you loved to swim under. The fried chicken at the Friday night buffet.
As we spoke, as we reminisced, I felt safe. I felt ready to sleep through the night.
I peer at the old man, who is being escorted out of the room, and then look back at mom. I can see she's starting to crave her midday nap as well.
Come on, I say. Let's go to your room and drink some tea. I'll sit with you until you fall asleep.