The edges of our relationship are softened like the frayed old faded bath towels that belonged to my mom, still neatly folded on a shelf in my closet, next to the crystal vases that were my grandmother’s treasures. I know she wouldn’t even remember them anymore, but I hold on to them nonetheless.
My mother’s eyes drift in and out of focus when I visit her these days. Out of the blue, she will occasionally ask a question or make a comment that is remarkably perceptive, almost psychic. Most of the time, she is content to sit silently after a lifetime of doing and fixing and being in constant motion. There’s no more anger or guilt in me because she’s no longer capable of launching the emotional bombs that she was able to throw so accurately for so many years. Only three more months until she turns 100. So, we are in the last chapter of our relationship, talking about what’s blooming in my garden or some other neutral, in-the-moment activity that will not upset anyone.
I brought her a small bouquet of violets in a tiny bud vase last week. With all the rain we’ve had, our lush green yard is filled with little purple and white flowers right now. They reminded me of how on Saturday nights when I was a child, my father and mother liked to go out to dinner with me in Chicago at a Polynesian restaurant called “Don the Beachcomber” just off of Rush Street. They ordered exotic rum drinks called “fog-cutters”, and the waiter royally presented me with pineapple juice with a fake camellia and a paper Japanese umbrella floating in it. After we ate, we would walk back to the parking garage, soaking up the glamorous nightlife of the “Gold Coast” that was so much more exciting to me than our quiet, boring country village. On one street corner, incongruous to all the glitz, for a couple of weeks in the Spring, there was a little folding table filled with nosegay bouquets of violets being sold by a bent over old gypsy who looked like she had stepped out of a fairy tale. My father stopped every time we saw her and bought my mother and I each a little purple bunch of flowers nested in a white paper lace doily.
I couldn’t find any doilies at the grocery store, but when I presented the violets to my mom the other day, she smiled delightedly and said, “Just like Papa used to give us.”