Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Walk to My Mom's Apartment


I will soon be walking  slightly less than a mile, repeating a journey I have taken several times a week for nearly a decade.

I will stroll past the church with its rotating message out front, welcoming guests but warning that those who park illegally in its lot are subject to being baptized. I will move past the flashing signs at the intersection of the road notifying drivers of their speed and informing those who drink and drive of the penalties that surely await.

Past all the high rises that a few decades ago were the first to dot the horizon on the Jersey side of the Hudson just south of the Great Gray bridge. Past the myriad banks that seem to crop up everywhere, like daisies in a field or bamboo chutes that take over a landscape.

Past the law office that is home to one of those "I recognize that name from those television commercial" firms.

Past the hot dog establishment that used to sit next to the other hot dog establishment, non-identical twins, but now stands alone, triumphant. My mom used to love eating here, at the place with the really good french fries and the hot dogs that had meaning.

My mom doesn't get to this place to eat anymore, doesn't go past the law office or the banks or the flashing signs or the church. She doesn't walk or ride to my residence, which sits a few minutes from where she has resided for well over three decades. My mom's world begins and ends within the confines of  her apartment, the one at which I will soon be arriving.

It is a late October morning, the air has turned markedly colder today and there is a fine mist spraying everything between where I sit and my mom's. Part of my routine in spending time with her is to speak of the colors that I see outside. Her apartment faces west and recently the fall foliage was at its peak. I was mesmerized by the far away hills and all their hues on proud display.  I am concerned that I am less than adept at mastering the words needed to convey the beauty and majesty of what can be viewed from her balcony, what she could see if only she still had her vision.

I will inform her of what the world holds as though she is still capable of understanding my meaning and its meaning. I will tell her tales of my children, of myself and my wife, of my work and my play, of anything and everything as though she retained the faculties that have seeped out of her head, like a constant trickle from a fissure that could never be closed. She sits mostly mute on some days and on others she will respond, for a moment or two and then fall back into that place that is now her home.

From my apartment window I look east, staring now into a gray sky and at the softly moving waters of the Hudson. At the buildings that sit across the river, at this distance, as silent as my mother, but which I understand are teeming with life and noise the closer you approach. At the planes, the helicopters, the boats, all signaling the vibrancy of this moment, this locale.

My mom knows none of this anymore. For her there are images in her brain of her parents and grandparents, her sisters and brother, of a small town cigar store and a big family. Where she lives there has not been a second World War, not a husband or children, not grandchildren. Not loves come and gone, hearts broken and mended, triumphs and tragedies of the past day, week, month, year or decade. There are no new sunrises or sunsets, no leaves turning the most miraculous shades, no today and certainly no tomorrow.

I will go to my mom's on this day and for all the days hereafter that remain for her. I will walk past the church and the warning sign, past the apartment buildings and the law office, past the hot dog stand. I will continue this journey for as long as she continues hers. Though she is no longer with us, she is still here.  And I will forever try to bring the mysteries and wonders of the world inside the apartment where my mom resides but no longer lives.


Michael Gansl said...

Unfortunately, most of us get to experience exactly what you are living through. I'm sure you know that you are not alone in this journey.

Robert said...

Sad, but true, as a generation remains with us in such a small way.

Robert said...

Below are some of the comments that were emailed to me regarding this piece. I thank everyone for their generous words and kind thoughts:

Love this

This is so powerful, and so heartbreaking. It made me cry. And it made me cry for my dad as well you and your mom. That means it touches a nerve for those who have lost a parent in any way, fast or slow decline. I love how it brings the things we overlook - traffic lights, the law office, the hot dog stand - into the forefront. It's the small details of a daily life writ large. There's a message in there about appreciating every day. I feel the sadness in this piece more than in others about her. I hope you're doing ok and that this helps in working things out. Just such a sad situation. You are a wonderful son!!

What a beautiful article. I have tears in my eyes. You are an amazing son.

This is a beautiful ant touching piece.

As always, beautifully written

What a beautiful work of art you created...it brings the reader...me...right into your world...you have an amazing talent...Joan

gayle and harvey said...

Your prose warms my heart. You have been on this daily journey for the sum of years now - no more music reaches her soul? I remember how your mom used to sing out loud. I wonder if there is any way to prevent our children from having to take care of us if we get to the same place...and will they be able to take the same daily walk if they have to..You are an amazing son and she must have been a good mother.
Your talent and sensitivity are a true gift. Thank you for writing this blog!

Robert said...

I wanted to again express my gratitude to those of you who wrote such warm comments to me about this piece. Below are quotes from a few more of the emails I have received.

I trust sharing your pain in that beautifully written piece provides you some comfort.

Poignant writing.

It's so affectingly written. Thanks for sharing about your mom

you wrote a beautiful blog on visiting your mom. brought tears to my eyes. wanted you to know I read it and how touching it was.

Robert said...

Another wonderful comment:

Your piece really resonated with me. My mom is going through the loss of her vision and some memory. I sometimes drive through our old neighborhood to remind myself of the wonderful life she (and my father) gave us. My hope is always the same: that she somehow remembers also.

As always, such great writing