Human Stories

 So, as I’ve mentioned, my mother (not to be confused with my stepmom, who I am usually praising on my blog) lives in an adult care home for the mentally ill. With the onset of the pandemic, I wasn’t really able to visit her–but I’ve always been pretty good at sending her things. She’s read every book I’ve put out, actually–although her grasp of them is a little thin. (“Oh honey–that book about the boys who just wanted to play was so funny! Why didn’t they just let them play! That was so weird!” for the records, she was reading the Locker Room.)

Anyway– I’ve been sending her letters this last year–sometimes one a week, sometimes one a month–and usually a little gift of some sort. Most lately it was some Bath & Bodywork samples and a little pencil case from Michael’s, with a guinea pig-acorn on the front. 

Today, however, I was determined to see her. Mate and I had our shots–I was pretty sure her group home would have been one of the first ones vaccinated, given that the residents would NOT be okay with a face covering and many of them are elderly (and heavy smokers!) and it was time to go see her face to face.

First thing, I went to her room (she has a roommate–this is always tricky, because severely schizophrenic people with roommates seem to blame everything on their roommate. Everything. She’s blamed her roommate–not always the same person–on everything from COVID to stray cats to God. God is bad–he doesn’t let her watch the FOX News. I think that’s proof that God is GOOD, but don’t get me started there.) 

So I walk in, and I’m wearing a mask, because… *flails* We’ve been wearing a mask out in public for a YEAR and even if I’m vaccinated now, it protects other people and, well, it shows them that I respect their health. It’s a whole thing. It’s taken over Twitter and FB several times now. WEAR A MASK. But as I enter, she doesn’t give me a second glance. 

“Uh, whatcha doin’, Lex?” 

“Fixing my bed,” she tells me. She is, in fact, making the bed from the ground up, so I stand back and watch her for a few moments. 

“Good to see you,” I say.

She gives me a suspicious look and narrows her eyes–there is no recognition. ZERO recognition. Da nada. I am a stranger in her room, with a mask and a coffee drink, because I always bring her a coffee drink–it’s not something she can get to easily from a walking distance. 

“Hi,” I say, tentatively, and then I gave it up. I took off the mask. My liberalness was not going to mean a damn thing to her–but she did want to see my face.

Her entire face lit up. It’s been over a year, although I made solid attempts to see her for her birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (Their phone system is the SUCK–there is no way I can get hold of people before I stop by. I brought her an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a little carry out bag, and they told me she’d get to eat it.)

So we tried again. I gave her the coffee drink–and she LOVED it. (“This is DELICIOUS!” she said after wiping it out in one gulp. I told her next time I’d get a large.) And we looked at the letters.

All over–the wall was papered with the letters I’d sent her over the last year. The letters had pictures of the kids, pictures of us–and pictures of the animals. Like most of us, telling animal stories was my happy place. The kids weren’t doing okay, Mate and I were trying not to spiral, but by golly, the animals were hilarious, and they made it into the letter.

So I took her outside to finish the rest of the coffee drink and we sat for a little while. I pulled out my phone and showed her more pictures–and this time, she lit up again and broke my heart. 

“Aw,” she said, looking at the phone. “Nebula.”

“Yes!” I told her the face eating story–it hadn’t made it into the letter yet. Then I showed her another picture.

“Geoffie!” she said, like this was her dog. “The cutest dog in the world!”

“Yes!” I pulled out my knitting as I showed her other pictures.

“Dewey–you shaved him. He’s not happy. ZoomBoy! Look how tall!”

And so on. And then she looked at me and said, “Look at what you’re knitting!” (Crocheting, actually, but at this point I don’t quibble. It’s all yarn.)

“Yeah. Just a granny-triangle shawl. Simple knitting.”

“I got the one you sent me. Did you see it in my room? I put it on my table! That one’s prettier.”

And so on. It was a short visit–she’s usually only really happy for about ten minutes anyway. But it was a good ten minutes.

And after a year of sending letters into the void and getting–well, science fiction back, because what else would you classify, “God won’t let us watch FOX News,” and “Good to see you last weekend at that house party with the elephants!” (Not. Kidding.) it was nice to know that some part of being human, of living the same human story, had connected.

My bio-mom has always loved cats–even the big no-necked jungle escapee that used to haunt the gardens outside her group home and eat chickens. “Yeah, honey–he’s a real motherfucker.” I haven’t lived with her since I was six years old, and it’s not always easy to keep up a relationship with someone who writes you letters about weekends with your father when they’ve been divorced for 47 years and haven’t seen each other since your wedding.  But I love cats too, and small dogs, and having animals in my home has never, ever been in question. And I get that from her (and my dad and stepmom too!) but cats, especially, from bio-mom. And it’s good to know that we still have a language for human communication.

Even if it’s not human at all. 

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