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21 more things = 42

The last post was the 21 things I KNOW at 42. At the end I said I'd consider writing 21 more things to make it 42 in total & then ...


Day 2: If You Had To Eat The Same Meal...

...over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why? Lets see...

The perfume of too many flowers in a too small space overpowered and threatened to lift me off of my feet. I had started off sitting in the back at first but it was so far away from the purpose. I couldn't see well enough despite the lack of others seated before me. The path was clear, foot and vision but I couldn't see well enough. Honestly, now that I think about it, it was probably the tears. They wouldn't stop and I couldn't find the faucet to turn them off and no windshield wipers cleared my lens and everything was still so far away and I just couldn't see well enough. Afraid, I moved forward a few pews, hoping that I'd be able to see better without having to really go all the way up there. And why was I so cold?

"I ain't gon' bite you, girl. Come here, let Mommy see your face."

I know I couldn't see well enough but I was pretty sure I didn't see my mother. Some god awful organ was playing somewhere. It wasn't directly where I was unless my hearing was as bad as my vision. I didn't seen anyone playing an organ but I certainly heard it. Was the organ supposed to sound like wailing? It never made sense to me that it was necessary to add the sound of sorrow to sorrowful situations where tears flowed with and without permission. Tears. My blouse was wet and I couldn't see well enough. I moved forward a few more pews unsure of what I was expecting to see. I had seen her chest fall and not rise again. We had been sitting appreciating each other's company. She from her medical bed and me from her reading chair. It had been moved permanently next to her bed from her reading nook so that anyone visiting could be as comfortable as possible while watching the living decompose. I had brought flowers in from the garden so she could see and smell and then put them in the window where they too would die, plucked too soon.

My mother's smile was even, never crooked or slack. It never looked weighed down by inevitability or fear. Her eyes remained clear, deceptively clear, like she had only been playing sick and would grow tired of the game and rise from her bed where she lay in a perpetual 35-degree angle. Geometry had never meant much to me outside of school but I knew the exact angle that protected my mother's lungs and gave her some semblance of comfort. On good days she could stand for a few moments, walk to the bathroom using the edge of the bed and the wall to guide her to the bathroom; the bathroom that I still cleaned every Saturday despite her inability to make it there anymore.

"Girl, get yo'self on in here. Why you actin all scared, chile?"

She would say that. She would question why I was suddenly afraid of...everything. Like when I was little I struggled to find the words to explain my fears to her. I swallowed air in large gulps when the words wouldn't drop and belching would follow and make me look and feel even more absurd. Once I even peed on myself trying to tell her why I just couldn't go to school. Telling my mother, who was afraid of nothing and no one, that my teacher frightened me loosened my grip on my urethra. I had potty trained earlier than most and stood there in a pool of my own urine with words that failed me. Here she was again asking me why I was afraid and this time I didn't even try to find the words because I couldn't see well enough where she was to turn to her and answer.

Over the wail of that god awful organ in the distance I replayed a conversation with my husband, asking me if I wanted him to come with me and hold my hand. I'd said no and sat wondering why I would have denied his presence. Something felt important about coming here, to do this, myself and say or do something but I couldn't remember what. Daddy had brought her clothes, and his back stayed straight as he unquestioningly went to his favorite outfit on her. He picked the shoes and the jewelry like he were her personal stylist. He laid the clothes on the bed and smiled, saying, "Your mother would be mad at the fit, but then nobody told her to lose all that weight." He'd played with her as she wasted away, telling her to stop playing with that body he loved so. At times it felt rude, their intimacies made me out to be an eavesdropper. He had found peace in her final breath, knowing she would no longer linger in a state less than living but more than death. I thought I had too but there I sat, searching for the faucet that turned off tears, hearing voices and wondering who was playing that damned organ!

The taste of breakfast revisited me. I hadn't eaten but played at putting a few bites in my mouth so my husband would stop checking on me to see if I was eating. Each of the 12 grains in that healthy bread he insisted we eat was making itself known individually. The bitterness of coffee hung out at the back of my throat and the misplaced smell of eggs made me gag. I needed to go to the bathroom, find some water, clean my face and wash out my mouth. I know I passed a bathroom on my way in but I couldn't see well enough to find my way back.

"You better gon' before you pee on yo'self."

As I racked my memory for the location of the bathroom and prayed for the removal of the taste of breakfast from my mouth I thought about my mother's obsession with fried fish. I knew my sister would make sure there was plenty at the repass and I hoped I could eat for my mother. I was overcome with a sense of certainty that if I could have my mother back I wouldn't turn my nose up at fish anymore and I would eat it with her everyday if she wanted me to. I would mix tartar sauce and hot sauce with her and eat it like it was some kind of delicacy. I could see the smile of satisfaction on her face on fish Fridays and selfishly thought the only other things in her life that made her smile as sure and broad were her children and my father's love.

I wanted my mother back and maybe eating fried fish and attempting to love my husband the way she'd loved my father would please her enough to return. Or some babies. Fried fish, loving my husband, and having babies with her confidence. I just needed to get to her to tell her, so she could be on the look out and know it was time to return but I couldn't see so good. And WHO IS PLAYING THAT GODDAMN WAILING ORGAN??!!

"Shut up that crying, girl. All that noise is gon' scare everybody off from coming in to see 'bout me one last time."

I don't know how the idea of a food I could stand to eat day in and day out turned melancholy. I suppose the commitment to stretching and thinking beyond the immediate made this possible. & no worries, my own mother is still very much alive.

Watch me move.


  1. Ndygo,

    Your memoir gave me a beautiful look at your strong and loving mother, so much so that I could SEE her. I feel your pain too.
    Your words are powerful. Keep writing. I want to read more!

  2. Thank you, Susan. However, as strong & amazing as my own mother is, this woman is an amalgamation of many mothers I have known over the course of my life.