She looked up from the Health magazine she was scanning, glasses pulled down past the tip of her nose to accommodate her worsening farsightedness. “Been ready.”
I grabbed the car keys and wallet off the counter and slipped on flip flops. “Cool, let’s go.”
She got up from the couch. The muscles in her arms appeared and disappeared and appeared again as she held onto the wall while putting on her shoes. The jeans she picked out that day looked baggy, pooling a little at her ankles after she pulled on tennis shoes.
I lock the door after us, giving myself a few seconds to hide my face and allow her a head start towards the car. The lump in my throat threatened to dissolve into my expression, but I distracted myself by doing a mental check for keys, wallet, phone. Check, check, check.
By the time I turned around, she had already opened the passenger side door and had one foot in. “Your dad always likes to sit so close to the dashboard,” she muttered as I slide into the driver’s seat.
I laugh a little. “Dad still gets nervous when I drive.” I hear the click of the seat belt and a soft exhale, an emptying of the lungs, as she settled into the seat next to me. We pull out.
“How’re you feeling?”
In my peripheral vision, I think I see her shrug, but maybe it was just her folding into herself. “Well, you know. I knew this day was coming.”
“We could’ve prevented it, you know,” I state quietly. It seemed a pointless statement this far in, but I couldn’t help myself. The volume of my voice indicated the deafening anger, violently muted by the expansive hopelessness I felt filling my chest, infusing my lungs, making my throat constrict and leaving the taste of the fear of drowning in my mouth. I wanted to say it isn’t fair, but the best I could muster is she didn’t try hard enough.
“Yes, maybe. But now we’re here.” I think she snuck a glance at my profile, her eyes traveling down to my hands, knuckles bleeding white from gripping the steering wheel too tightly. “Relax, Allie. Dialysis is a common treatment.” When my posture remained frozen, she tried again. “It’s just four hours. It’ll be over before you know it.”
I drop my shoulders a little, relenting. “You sure you don’t want me to stay with you?”
“Oh, honey, what’s the point? You’ll be bored out of your mind.”
“That’s ok. I can keep you company.”
She laughed a little. “No, no, you should go be with Alex. Take Joey to the park. It’s nice out.” Again, discomfited by my silence, she added, “You think I ever offered to keep you company when you didn’t want to be dropped off at pre-school? Please. I had so much I had to do!”
And then it clicked. The feeling of misplaced deja vu, the warmth of familiarity mottled by the cool breeze of uncertainty, the depth of attachment I felt to this event that is just the first of its kind for the rest of my mom’s life — over a decade ago, we were here. Our seats were different. My mom was ten years younger. I still couldn’t drive.
How quickly time has flown. How quickly our roles have changed. Or maybe slowly? Imperceptibly. A slow going out of business. One moment she was the pillar of my world and the next moment when I remembered to scan the horizon, the pillar was gone. In its place was a shadow of what was there before. It needed to be meticulously taken care of lest it fades away from relevance as all things less than young, beautiful, or heroic tend to do.
“Allie, I can’t wait to see you grow up.” I remember her telling me. But then she paused and shadows tiptoed onto her face, causing her eyes to dim and the smile on her face to turn inward. “But when you grow up, I will have grown old.”