I turn the key in the back door lock and walk into the house through the laundry room and on into the brightly lit kitchen where I find Mother standing by the portable dishwasher. On its butcher-block top, she is filling her 12 ounce insulated cup with ice and chilled water.
Her look is piercing. No hello or how are you or how was your writing class; no pleasantries.
“I thought you were going to buy sugar?”
“I did,” I say. “Remember? You stood right there when I filled the large canister.” I’m not prepared for this attack so am irritated at myself for feeling defensive.
“Oh,” The piercing look changes to puzzled defiance because she’s sure of one thing and I’m sure of the opposite and because things that used to come easy for her now elude her grasp.
“Well,” she says, “I used the sugar in the small Sugar canister. I had to ration how much I put in the apples I cooked to put up in the freezer.”
The apples arrived on the front porch yesterday morning in a plastic grocery bag. From one of the neighbors across the street? Probably, as we regularly trade fruit from all our trees.
Mother uses her cane to carefully move the short distance to the refrigerator to return the bag of ice to the freezer section, then back to the butcher-block top where she picks up the iced water jug, turns around and moves back to the refrigerator, her cane clunking with each slow step.
Hot apple aroma is making my stomach grumble so I take a clean spoon to the stove where the cooked apples are still in the pan.
“They’re perfect. The ones you made last time were too sweet for me.”
Mother comes to taste the apples and we agree they are delicious and I tell her that it’s nice living with someone who cooks these tasty things. She’s happy now and moves slowly out of the kitchen into the dining room where she settles herself and her iced water on the back side of the dining room table, so that she has a clear view of the TV.
I move around the house, rinsing dishes she left in the sink, collecting recycle trash and garbage to put in the outside bins, opening mail, starting a load of towels in the washer, checking my email and facebook.
Mother mutes the TV on the commercial. I hear her groans of effort as she gets out of her chair and the clonk of her cane tells me she’s coming through the kitchen towards me in the office.
“What has happened to all my kitchen dish towels?” She’s sounds upset and I know if I look I’ll see that defiance on her face again, “did you throw them all away?”
“Do you hear the washer, Mother?” I don’t look up. I continue to sift through mail, tossing empty envelopes and junk mail into the trash.
“And all the white towels from my bathroom,” She leans against the door frame, “where are they?”
God give me strength. Apparently logical thinking has deserted her in her eighty-sixth year. I sigh, swivel Daddy’s big old-fashioned desk chair towards her and begin again.
“I’m washing a load of white towels, Mother,” I take the look of frustration off my face and hope it is replaced with kindness, “bathroom and kitchen white towels, Mother.”
“Oh,” she turns and clonks back across the kitchen floor, “I just couldn’t understand why you would throw them all away.”
I can tell by the sounds that she’s back at the table, getting settled in her spot.
“They are all perfectly good towels with lots of use left in them,” she says just before the sound of the TV at full volume again fills the house.
“Especially the brand new ones I just bought for your bathroom.” I grumble to myself and swivel back to the desk. I don’t know what the next crisis will be. I know there will be one, and no doubt, it will be my fault. Not that it is her fault she’s eighty-six, wears out quickly and is easily confused. One of us has to take the blame. I guess that’s why I’m here.
[1st Place Winner – LinkedIn Themed Writing Contest, 11-20-2013]