Mom’s Mantle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Mom’s “mantle of love” is passed

It’s April 20, 2021. I’m looking up into the darkening sky, thinking how tomorrow will be 40 days since mom’s departure. Some say the spirits of the dead linger on earth for 40 days (taken from Acts 1:3). If that’s true, then I have one more day to encounter mom, before we meet again in heaven. So far, she hasn’t made any appearances. 


I’m tired and have a headache. I’m sitting at an outdoor table in the Plubell’s garden with my writing group. David is standing next to me, telling Jaime how exciting it could be to write about any hour of her life. “You could write about tomorrow morning. You could write about your commute to work. Pay attention to every detail.” His gestures are animated and his face is aglow with enthusiasm. Jaime, who sits across the table from me, is smiling, her blue eyes watching him. 


A mama bird comes close, chirping to her nestlings who rest in a hanging flowerpot. Kurt Plubell, with eyes that match Jaime’s blue, leans back in his chair with a thoughtful expression. “Write about an hour in your life,” he repeats David’s idea, trying it on for size. “Yes, Jaime, that could be a good exercise.” 


“I think if I do it, we should all do it,” she says.


I nod my head. I’m up for the challenge. I excuse myself and go to the restroom. My headache is getting worse, so I call Steve. He picks up. 


“Have you left yet?” I ask.




“Good,” I say. He lives at least half an hour away, and we’d agreed to meet at Evelyn’s Bible study tonight. “I have a headache and I don’t feel like going.” I enjoy the Bible study, and the flexibility of its timing. You can show up whenever and it usually goes till midnight, as we pray and talk. But with this headache, there is no point in going. 


“Want me to come over?” Steve’s voice is soothing. “I think I can massage it out.”


It does feel like a tension headache. “That would be great,” I say. 


As I drive home, my headache is getting worse and I’m feeling ill. It is hard for me to even drive, and I consider pulling over. But what would I do? Stand there on the sidewalk in the night, feeling sick? 


Maybe I should cancel my appointment with Elona’s kids tomorrow. They are supposed to come over after school for some happy Auntie Netty time. No, I won’t cancel just yet. Maybe I’ll feel good by tomorrow. 


Arriving home, my face has that open-mouth expression of one who is about to vomit. My skin must look green. I slowly walk around the back of the house to the entrance of my room. I have my own little studio apartment back there. Straightening up my room a bit, I put a fresh towel in the bathroom and change into comfortable pajamas. 


Feeling like I really do need to vomit, I go out to the front yard and get on my hands and knees in the grass, crouching on all fours. Drool is dripping from my open mouth, but no vomit. My headache is excruciating. Almost unbearable. Should I take an aspirin? But I feel like throwing up. Dad might know what to do. He used to get migraines a lot. 


I ring the front doorbell. “Dad it’s me,” I call out. 


He opens the door. I tell him how I’m feeling. “You could take an aspirin, but not on an empty stomach,” he says. 


I don’t want to eat anything. I sit down on the front porch and put my head in my hands. I am in such pain I can barely bear it. “Steve is coming over and I don’t know what to do.”


“I’m sorry,” Dad says sympathetically. “Maybe if you throw up that will help.” 


He goes back in the house and I go back to the grass, feeling its dry blades beneath my bare feet. Now that mom is gone, plants are drying out. Supplies are running out too. She used to buy big packs of tissue for me at Sam’s club. With my chronic sinus issues, I go through tissue boxes like dogs go through tennis balls. All those tissue boxes are used up now. Yesterday I was blowing my nose in toilet paper. Maybe this is a sinus infection headache. 


I’m cold. Everything hurts. I feel so nauseous, I don’t want to move. But I’m cold, so I decide it’s worth it to go get a jacket. I slowly walk back to my room. It’s warmth beckons me to stay inside. I turn off the lights and crawl into bed. Maybe I can lie here for a moment, without throwing up. I feel some sense of comfort, and drift off into that lovely dozing state. My phone rings, jarring me out of it. Steve is here.


“Come on back,” I say into the phone. I go outside to greet him. He hugs me against his chest. He has a thick layer of muscle, padding his chest and shoulders, and it feels good to bury my face in it. His scent is mild and pleasant. He is wearing jeans and a button-down shirt with a collar and an embroidered MS. It’s his favorite cowboy brand, Moonshine. His beard softly rubs against my head. 


Arm in arm, we walk into my studio. Only my nightlight is on. 


“I’m so miserable,” I say, and crawl back under my covers. 


He removes his Moonshine shirt, and is wearing a cotton T-shirt underneath. He takes off his shoes and gently lies next to me, on top of my covers. He presses his fingers into my temples and forehead and it feels good. He massages under my cheekbones, along the outside of my teeth. He knows that my teeth hurt too, whenever I have a headache.


“This feels good,” Steve says.


“To you?” I ask.


“Yes. I love doing this. I love relieving your pain.”


He gets up to use the restroom, and I feel my throbbing headache. I realize his touch really was helping, taking my attention away from the pain as I felt the firm pressure of his fingers.  


I doze off and awake to the feeling of Steve’s thumb slowly moving across my forehead. “I love you.”


I open my eyes in the darkness. Mom was the one who loved me most graciously. The mantle has been passed. 


Submitted: May 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Netalie. All rights reserved.

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