Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm Glad She Wants to Stay Awake

Last night, I had the pleasure of doing a reading at Seattle's historic Rendezvous in Belltown. It was a lot of fun. The organizers asked me, as part of my reading, to respond to a prompt, which was, "I'm glad she wants to stay awake, but I don't know. Is that really the best way?" This is what I wrote (and read): 

"I'm glad she wants to stay awake, but I don't know. Is that really the best way?"

“What are you talking about?” Alan rolls over in bed to regard me with a quizzical stare.

“She should sleep. She should rest,” I tell him.

“Who?”

“Oh come on, you know who. My mother.”

Alan doesn’t say anything. I can feel him staring at me in the dark and I don’t know if I can bear to meet his gaze, to see the sympathy in his eyes. Instead, I look up at the ceiling and repeat, “I’m glad she wants to stay awake.” I feel his hand, warm on my chest, put there in an attempt to comfort. I want to twist my chest upward to knock it off. “She wants to stay awake,” I say again, a little ticked.

We’re both tired. Not just from the funeral this morning, but from witnessing the long-range war that goes by the ubiquitous name—cancer. I can think of nothing else but Mom in that room at the hospice, afraid that if she succumbed to her weariness and allowed her eyes to close, she’d never open them again.

I change the tense of my statement, turning my head at last to look at this person next to me, this person who’s meant to be comfort. “She wanted to stay awake.”

“I know, sweetheart. I know.”

The tears, which have been threatening to come for a very long time, but always delayed, spring up, trickle down. “I wanted her to stay awake. But she didn’t. And I never got the chance to say ‘I love you.’

Alan snuggles closer, rests his head on my chest. “You didn’t have to say the words. She knew.”

“She went to sleep,” I pronounce, thinking that Alan, who knew me better than anyone, was right.

“And it was the best way,” he says softly.

I pull him close. “Let’s sleep.”

We lay silent for a long time, until I hear the deepening of Alan’s breath beside me. I nudge him, poking my elbow gently into his side. His breathing changes and I know he’s awake again.

“What?” he wonders.

“I love you,” I say.

(Photo courtesy of David Warner)
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