Continuing from “I Thought When Ma was Gone, I’d Do it” …
SHE KNEW about my stack of stories. She had a stack of her own. Typed out. At my urging. I thought it might do her some good.
She went through a series of word processors – computers baffled her – and we just tried to keep her in supplies, ribbons and such.
I didn’t know Wite-Out was still in existence until it appeared on her shopping list and I went hunting for it.
“Wite-Out – a small amount,” she wrote. This was her request concerning everything, the smallest quantity possible, convinced as she was (for 40 years) that her leavetaking was nigh and not wanting to leave a lot of clutter behind.
I once brought her a ream of paper and she made me take 400 sheets back home with me.
* * *
It was really all I had to offer her those last few years, encouragement to write. That was my main contribution, not errand-running, not chauffeuring, not acting as liaison, not making phone calls for her because of her lack of voice and eventually hearing. You can hire people for those jobs.
All I knew was a tiny bit about helping get a story out.
I couldn’t ease her suffering.
I couldn’t dispel her loneliness. Lifelong, that.
I couldn’t reconcile her to the truth of her past.
But I could encourage her writing and maybe in the writing she’d have some of those other things.
And I think it helped, at least a little. When the blues came over her, you could be sure dust was collecting on the word processor.
But I digress.
* * *
IN THAT LAST SITTING-UP CONVERSATION, after she worked her way through a laundry list of names, taking inventory of the whole family, inquiring about each person’s status, there came a pause. She stopped to think. There was something else she wanted to remember to say. Then she remembered.
She pointed to the stack of pages on her right.
“Take it with you,” she said in that low whisper.
I recognized the stack.
“Take it? No. You might think of something to add.”
She shook her head. “Can’t do it anymore. My fingers won’t work for me.”
I knew it was true. I’d seen her struggling at the keyboard.
“Well then, you might want to read through them.”
I didn’t know if I’d done right, resisting her instruction. Resist or comply, which was right? I wasn’t sure. I was rarely sure. But then with Ma you could never be sure. You didn’t hold out for being sure. Being sure probably wasn’t coming.
“It’s quite a story, Ma.”
“Quite a story, yeah.”
“Should be told somewhere.”
“Huge, though. It’ll take the two of us. Between the two of us, we might be able.”
“No,” she shook her head. “You. You do it.”
And suddenly, compliance seemed the way to go.
She nodded and folded her hands.
“And don’t worry. I’ll do a good job with it.”
“I know you will,” she said.
* * *
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