Into the Night

At about eleven o’clock last night, after a long hot day full of beauty, pain, and many odd twists and turns, I went outside to see if the air had finally cooled. For the first time in several nights, it had. For a very short time, I looked up at the stars. Life being the strange, unpredictable thing it is, I was almost surprised to find them there.

Although I would have loved to stay out, I knew that was impossible. My mother and I both needed sleep. It was time for bed, time for the ritual of finding a book for her to read, taking a glass of water to her room, and tending to the windows and lights. Had I stayed out, even for five minutes, she would have wondered where I had gone, and quite possibly whether or not I’d ever return. Or she might have thought I had been offended by something she had said or done. She might have said, “I’ll be fine. You don’t have to stay.” This, despite the fact that I have been here with her for more than two months, and have been on hand each and every time she has called out during the night, or awakened in a state of confusion in the morning, unable to read her clock.

After reading a few lines from Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days, I fell asleep at eleven-thirty. At three-thirty, I was dreaming about the small dining table my mother had given her parents long ago, and which now occupies a corner in this house. The table was gone. As I stared at the empty corner, I thought, I wonder if she put it in the closet? Before I had time to check, I heard her turn on the light in the living room. I quickly got out of bed. She had a bad headache. I gave her something for it, guided her back to bed, and placed a cold damp washcloth on her forehead just above her eyes.

“I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“That’s all right. I’ll lie down again in a minute.”

“You’re not sick, are you?”

“No, I’m fine. Just relax and get some more rest.”

I stayed at her bedside until she was calm, then went back to bed. After that, every few minutes, she called out to see if I was there. I got up and freshened her washcloth each time, and each time she asked me if I was all right.

“I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to be. Just get some rest, and in awhile you’ll be fine.”

Finally, at about five o’clock, she fell asleep. Since I had already dressed, I got up again, tiptoed into the kitchen, and made some coffee.

She’s been up twice since then. The first time was at a quarter past six. I could see that her headache was already gone. The second time, at seven-thirty, I watched her put on her socks and crawl under the covers again.

Now it’s eight-thirty, and I’ve finished my coffee. She’ll be up soon, I know, and in all likelihood she won’t remember what happened. But I will.

July 25, 2006

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