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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A memoir of my beloved mother...
Gift of Love by patsolstad
 Category:  Essay Non-Fiction
  Posted: April 20, 2012      Views: 503

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When I was growing up, Mom never told me she loved me. She always seemed grumpy and didn't often use kind or positive words when speaking to me--or at least that's how I remember it. She was no doubt tired, raising ten rambunctious children. But she was responsible to a fault in some ways. I hardly remember a time when she was not working night jobs to help support the family. She became a little more gentle, perhaps even happy, every time a child grew up and left home. One less mouth to feed. One less body to clothe. Far fewer sleepless nights imagining the worst when the clock struck midnight and the older children were not yet home safe in bed.

These days it's rather popular to say "I love you" or the nonchalant "love you," both phrases casually tossed out like treats to eager pets, but often lacking in true sentiment. I most certainly do not love all people who tell me they love me. But I fancy myself obliged to respond in kind. I then feel like a hypocrite or, at best, a liar.

My mother died a few years ago. She was 94 years old. Like so many who have lived nearly double their estimated life expectancy, she lost the ability to remember and gradually lost almost all of her speech.

But a funny thing happened as she sank deeper into dementia. She became more and more content. As in her younger years when her family grew smaller as each child grew up and left home, the more she "lost" as an old woman--the ability to care for herself, the ability to walk, her vision, her memories, material things--the happier she became.

She loved to be touched. She loved to be hugged and kissed. She loved to be rocked in my arms. She loved to have me sing to her and tell her that I loved her. She would show her pleasure by uttering sweet, soft moans. But few words.

Her whole face erupted into one gorgeous, toothless smile whenever I came to visit her in the nursing home. And, several weeks before she died, she started using a new phrase. One I had never heard before. She used it over and over again. It was as though this phrase had been bottled up inside nearly all of her life. And now the words tumbled out of her like a broken record, or more like an old record that was stuck in a groove. She said the words to various people whose presence she felt more than saw--her children, relatives, nursing home workers.

She repeated this phrase to me shortly before she slipped into what was, for her, a three-day dying process. She accepted my hugs and kisses and songs with her usual expressions of pleasure. But then she took my face in her old, soft hands, looked straight at me with unseeing eyes muddied by macular degeneration and said, with great feeling: "I love you."

I waited sixty years to hear that powerful phrase. And for those particular words to be the last remembered, the last to pass through the mouth of one who had likely kissed each of her ten downy-haired babies' heads as they nursed in her arms, has to be just about the perfect ending--certainly for me, hopefully for her--to a life that was lived the best she knew how.


Non-Fiction contest entry

Recognized

Author Notes
Many thanks to wingsoflove for the beautiful graphic.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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