Mama passed, honey. That was the subject line of my friend S’s email to me last week. S had been by the side of the woman who, though not her mother, was close enough to be. S had helped Mama out of this world into whatever comes after. Before work, after work, on weekends, she was with her, a steadying presence full of love and jokes. When Mama told her she was hungry, S would feed her little bites of avocado, apple sauce, ice cream. S was with Mama when she finally said goodbye to the world. Mama was in her 90’s. It was time.
But it’s not always time. I remember the day that the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends died. I hung up the phone and screamed and threw it across the room. So unfair, that this middle-schooler, a girl I adore, should have to live with that loss.
The stars of my new novel, Never Coming Back (my first novel for adults in a long time, forthcoming in October), are Clara Winter and her mother Tamar. Tamar has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which means that she and Clara are running out of time together. While most of us, if we’re lucky, have decades to resolve our relationships with our parents –the ins and outs, the nuances and realizations and disconnections and reconnections– Clara and Tamar have only months. This small, lovely poem by Anna Marie Sewell makes me think about mothers and daughters, parents and children, my friend S and Mama, and all the ways in which we do or don’t cradle each other.
Nocturne: Tiny Now, by Anna Marie Sewell
She is tiny now, my mother
and jokes in the morning, when
her teeth aren’t in, how she whistles
like a little bird. And i want to reach
back to the nights when
she brought the piglets in
laid them in the woodstove oven
so tiny, but she believed in them
and in that warm cradle, the spark
of life rekindled in them. How
do i cradle her? now
she is so tiny, softly
drawing nearer to
the Western Door.
This poem won’t do it.
This poem is for me
a piglet grown, with
my snout astonished
at discovery, how the power
that built a world for me still
reveals itself, blue
slight, soft, tiny
For more information on Anna Marie Sewell, please click here.