We have fewer and fewer stories to post in The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest. As it comes to a close, how fitting that one of our final entries is from Miryam Howard, who befriended Peggy on our website, and their friendship went well beyond the boundaries of our literary playground.
Here is Miyam’s second and her final entry into our contest. As Miryam would say, “Shalom, Baby!”
Miryam forgot a title. Why don’t ye who will leave comments suggest the best title for this poignant tale?
by Miryam Howard
“She’ll never change! There’s no dam hope for her!”
I stormed out of her apartment in a shocked daze, fleeing down six flights with my suitcases in tow to my rental car on the curb. It wasn’t until I sat behind the wheel that I realized my body was shaking and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I thought I might throw up.
Then, a wave of disbelief filled my mind like a thunder storm…..
“Did she really scream those words? Did she actually whirl things across the room at me?”
Flash backs suddenly bolted like lightening across my mind — the deep wounds revisited, like a kick to the ribs when already down for the count.
It had happened so fast — out of nowhere! All I knew was that I had to escape. Quickly.
My fantasy evaporated like vapors of smoke into the night air.
My longing crushed like a cigarette butt on a dirty sidewalk.
I had planned this trip for weeks. It was to be the first Mother’s Day we would spend together in many years; perhaps the last. She was in her 80’s— time was running out. I had filled my mind with false hope, envisioning that we would share our hearts together, creating new memories that would wash away the pain of the past.
“Why did she insist on always ruining it all? Was she mentally deranged? Possessed by some demonic force of darkness?”
Anger began to boil within me as I realized it was I who allowed it. If I had not been so desperately needy, I would have never put myself back in her world. It was all my fault. When was I ever going to learn? Why couldn’t I just grow up and realize that it is what it is? My mother hates me, and that is that.
Boarding my plane for Seattle, I left her behind, — at least physically. I pleaded with God to take this love I still had for her away. I reminded God that I had forgiven her, so now I could forget her, but my prayers went unanswered. The more I tried to cut her out of my heart, the more love came in. Forgiveness came too easy — compassion too smoothly. I concluded to lock this love up, placing it in the basement of my heart, never allowing it freedom to hurt me again. I would not allow her vomit to be spewed upon me one more time. I pressed the delete key. The psychotic cycle would never lure me in again. To this, I was committed.
Three years passed. I could not bring myself to pick up the phone…hearing her voice would be too difficult. However, little by little, we began to correspond. A card here, a note there… photos of the grandchildren, postcards from our travels. It seemed safe enough. But I reminded myself, — the sweetness could turn to a tangled tirade at any moment.
All the while, I secretly loved her….adored her… wanted to be like her…
I have recently moved to California.
I find myself in the same elevator, going down the same hallway from where I fled just a few years before. I open her apartment door with a key and greet her as I enter. I bring a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and sit it on a tray next to her bed. She lifts her head and smiles. I kiss her wrinkled face and smooth back her glossy white hair. I tell her she is beautiful and that the weather today is warm. She slowly sits up and tastes her soup. She says she isn’t hungry and proceeds to finish it all. I give her the newspaper.
We talk about the headlines.
I read her a story.
She says she loves me and likes my pretty pink blouse. She won’t remember that I was there ten minutes after I leave. I phone her later and she calls me by my sisters name. I remind her of our walks and recent conversations and she pretends to remember. She sometimes thinks she is back in Wisconsin and I will gently remind her that she has lived in California since 1947. She doesn’t argue with me, yet struggles to remember. Her bitterness has been swept away and only unconditional childlike sweetness remains. The pain and wounds which raged within her life for so long, no longer haunt her. She lives within the breath of each sacred moment.
Occasionally she is lonely and becomes fearful.
“Lonely for what?” I ask, — but she can’t recall.
“It’s so scary when I can’t remember” she shares in a whispering, shaky voice.
I reassure her, telling her I understand, and that she is safe.
She turns the pages of her photo album and gets teary eyed. She points to a picture of me as a child. I tell her,
“That was me mom.”
Her eyes meet mine and we share a smile that cascades beyond time.
God answered my prayer, — but in His own way. I am now able to love her without fear of flying objects or cruel words. She is now able to love me and is free from the tormenting bitterness that clouded her life for so long.
Looking back, I believe it was Gods love for her which I could not escape. My carnal love was incapable of such extraordinary feats.
Our wounds are healed.
We are at peace.
…..I swear, it’s not to late.