Friday, September 22, 2006

Worn Thin

When I was little, my mother sang to me and I thought she had the most beautiful voice.

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Momma’s gonna buy you a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird don’t sing
Momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

There was something about her voice. The combination of how deep it was and the breathy softness of her singing was so comforting. She would take a long, deep breath and always start by humming first, as if from a far away place, a gentle place, a low rumble slowly became words.

My mother felt safe in those moments. She would rub my back and I would fall fast asleep listening to her voice, as it trembled slightly with her fear of hitting the wrong note.

The night before my mother’s last surgery, a few years ago, I laid down next to her and rubbed her back. I remember wanting to sing, softly, the way she had sung to me. The way I sing to my own children. I held her. She was terrified.

In the morning, my brother, his wife and I all stayed with her until the nurses gave the shot to relax her, in preparation for the anesthesia. The room was stark, covered floor to ceiling with white, enamel tile. There were four bays for patients, but she was the only one that hour. She looked so small.

This time, the night before her surgery, I do not know who my mother will have hold her. So many people have been pushed away. Dismissed. Or simply worn thin by her need to be in control and the center of the universe. The world revolves around her and she thinks she’s an awful person. Nothing matters but her woes, over and over. Her insecurity eats at her. People see power and confidence when they meet her. I see a scared, little girl who flails at anyone who tries to help her.

This time, I won’t wrap my arms around her. It hurts too much. Too many times her voice has come from the rage bubbling just under her skin. Thick, intoxicated, it cuts to my core.

I don’t know who will hold her. I don’t know who might sing for her. I only know it won’t be me.

And if that cart and bull fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town


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