In an era that tends to over sexualize things, the smiling attentions of the twentysomething barista at Peet’s are not to be taken for granted. Nothing by way of attention from a young woman is ever to be taken for granted at age 64. Will you still need me, will you still feed me? Thing is, I do have special needs. Very special. The need to have someone carry my brimming café mocha to a distant table, the need to have loving attention, the need to feel needed, particularly this morning.
Jane could not stay the night. Something was going on with her daughter, so Jane rushed home. Abandoning me to the forces of…what? Emptiness, mostly. And cellular memory. Growing up with a mother so nervous and preoccupied that she might as well have been elsewhere. She was elsewhere, emotionally. While I was all too present. Being present, as the life mystery gradually reveals, is both curse and asset. Trouble is, the latter has only become apparent late in life. ‘Enormous Changes at the Last Minute,’ to quote Grace Paley.
Thing about the girl at Peet’s, beyond the soft young skin, bursting breasts, and smile…is that she remembers. That I like a sprinkle of chocolate atop my cappuccino. That I like a spoon. That I like her, goes without saying, although I do my best to be, well, discrete. By which I really mean that my need for personal, loving attention is too heartbreakingly real this morning. Just as her kindness is too heartbreakingly generous. This is what my life is all about. Learning to be deserving. Learning, period.
Jane having abandoned me to the forces of the night, I actually slept pretty well until about 5 AM when the Wild Things gathered force. An hour or so later, I gave up, conducted myself through the morning’s bathroom rituals…until Jane blew in to help me get dressed. Not that I can’t do this on my own. But, it occurred to me this very morning, I have several decades of doing this on my own. Personal attention. Intimate tending to the body and its daily needs. Socks. One must make a sock choice, which I generally shrug off. But not this morning. Warm ones. Seemingly silly in mid-April, but not if I reside in my own body. Old. Paralyzed. Circulation marginal. The day cool. Let us dress in woolen socks. That I readily get with the mothering program, not insisting on my macho ability to brave the mild California elements on my own, represents a sort of progress.
For mothering is not static, it seems. Give the quality rein, and it sets to trotting. Where? Ask Bixby, Jane’s rescued dog. Still traumatized, permanently perplexed, yet under Jane’s ministrations, he has taken to exuberance. Never mind that Bixby is not always clear where he is, what happens next, and so on. Just watch him prance about my living room. He is happy. Happy to be a dog. Happy to be Jane’s dog, not to mention Eleanor’s dog. Like mother like daughter. If the dogs get ecstatic around Jane, they go suborbital around her daughter. Not static, mothering.
Not static, quadriplegia, so one must keep moving. Incredibly, even on this morning, there is time for a physiotherapeutic walk before Jane goes to work. As we stroll, she talks about her job. One of her parishioners needs help but tends to drive helpers away. What she really needs, Jane observes, is good mothering. She is mother to the world, I tell Jane. Her response comes quickly, firmly. Nope. That is precisely what she knows she is not. I take this with a grain of salt. For this is my opportunity at mothering. Who else will mother Jane? Mentally, I take us to Mother Harbin Hot Springs. Mother Hawaii. And Jane takes me up and down the footpath. And because the mother spirit is free to do as it will, I get surprising advice.
My spirits are not the most robust, having awakened too early, Marlou’s deathly presence never far these nights, particularly in the bedroom. Another day. This particular one involving a complex and rather arduous series of transit experiences, not the least of which involves a ferry boat…all to have lunch in Marin County. Not sure I’m really keen on this Long Days Journey into Public Conveyance. Jane listens. Why not, she asks. What else are you going to do with your day except sit around and brood? Which is where it gets to, the mother experience, if one is lucky and has enough patience and enough time. Out of the nest. Free flight. Spread your fledgling wings while your mom…well, gets into something else. Not static. However strongly felt the need, it must keep moving, mothering. Or become smothering. While I become…. Who can say? At this point in life, becoming anything must be applauded.