It was one of the last times I went down to see my mother. She was so old. She was bent forward—her hazel eyes sort of glazed with a film that comes with old age. Her reddish hair was losing its battle to a bad dye job and her memory was becoming worse. Her outfits were limited. She missed wearing nice shoes and nicer clothing.
I remember driving from Ft. pierce to down to Pompano Beach Florida. I took the last of my mother’s belongings and snuck them from the assisted living home where angry nurses yelled at elderly, defenseless and debilitated patients. My mother was terrified of that place. I suppose when I arrived, she felt protected. And when I made myself know, I suppose my mother felt rescued.
When I spoke with the woman running the small assisted living development; I made my complaints very clear while mentioning my intentions, followed by the delivery of an attorney’s business card, along with a list of complaints, which I planned to make with the State.
The woman running the establishment had a thick accent. Her dark lips curled with hatred as I introduced myself. I watched the other patients sit at attention as I spoke to the woman in charge. Perhaps for that brief moment—I was a hero to them as well. When she attempted to silence me, I spoke loudly and explained myself even further.
I informed the home that my mother and I would be leaving and returning by suppertime. That was a lie. I knew we had a better placement. I knew we were not coming back. However, in case there was a miss; in case something fell through—in case there was an error in paperwork or something went wrong, we did not want to lose my mother’s bed in the home. And if in case we did come back, I wanted this head nurse to be sure that I would see her in prison should anything “Accidentally” happen to my mother.
I drove a little more than 100 miles to get my mother situated. On the way back towards Vero Beach, I needed to stop at my mother’s old apartment, which was in the exact same condition as when my mother left it.
After falling several times, the State of Florida removed my mother from her home.
“This is for her own safety,” explained the State.
They placed her in a small assisted living home. The home was a ranch style house. There were three people crammed into small bedrooms. The nurses were much less than kind—and the head nurse was as mean as they come. Worse than the living conditions was the abusiveness of the head nurse.
As for my mother’s apartment, all was left as-is. Her bed was the same as when she left it. Her slippers were in the same place by her favorite chair. Her clothes were as she left them in the drawers, and in her closets. My mother’s books, magazines, and crossword puzzles were left in a small wicker basket beside her favorite chair. Her glasses were on the table beside the chair—exactly as she left them.
I could feel her energy still in the rooms of her old apartment. The Florida humidity left the rooms a little damp. I cleaned out the refrigerator. I cleaned up her dishes that were left in the sink. I grabbed some clothes. I grabbed her pictures and the memories she saved throughout the years.
She kept all of my post cards. She kept small things to occupy her mind. She kept clippings from the Reader’s Digest and gift ideas. I began to feel my mother’s loneliness as I went through her paperwork. I saw the way she occupied her time. I saw the empty dog bed where her little dog Selena used to sleep.
Then I came upon a box. This is where my mother kept her important memories. There was a picture I drew for her when I was in grade school with the word, “Mommy,” written across the top of the page.
My handwriting was terrible—which was enough to make me laugh at myself. I found postcards I wrote to my mother when I was a young boy at sleep-away camp. I never really enjoyed camp. I never wanted to go but The Old Man and my mother thought it would be fun.
I found a small note that I wrote to her. I was maybe five or six when I wrote this. The note said, “Dear Mommy, I am very mad at you and I’m not going to speak to you all day tomorrow. Love Benjy”
Benjy was a name that took me a long time to grow out of. I never liked that name. However, it was the name I grew up with. Most of the words in that note were misspelled. The words were written in red crayon. I do not suppose the color has any meaning in this case. A therapist or counselor might suggest that red is the color of anger, which is why I wrote in red crayon. And they could be right, but honestly, I was not that deep of a kid . . .
I wondered why of all things she kept; why did my mother keep this note? I know she told me about it. She said it was funny to her.
I found the note a little sad.
As kids, we say the meanest things. As kids, we have no trouble hitting below the belt as quickly as possible. We have no understanding of the other side.
And the most frequently heard question after saying the meanest of mean things always sounded like this, “How would you like it if someone said something like that to you?”
This was a question to which every kid answered with the same, stock answer. “I don’t know.”
I watched a young boy tell his mother, “I hate you,” in a store.
I know I said things like this when I was young too.
I watched a young girl yell at her mother after the mother asked the young girl about her outfit.
“I wish you would just go away!” said the young girl
Kids today say the damnedest things.
I know I did
I said mean things.
I said the worst of things.
I never thought about the other side of my words. I never thought about how deeply my words could cut someone. I suppose as kids, we never see the consequence of these thins. Then we become adults ourselves—and then one day, our kids say something mean to us.
Kids today say the damnedest things
One day . . . these kids will see the other side of their words.
One day, these kids will be in a position like mine was.
I was collecting the last of my mother’s things and standing amongst the energy of her life and love.
I knew this would be one of the last times I saw her alive. One day these kids that say such mean things to their parents will be like me one day; standing in an emptied room, clutching to a favorite sweater, like the one my mom wore to keep warm and crying in the heaviest of cries while pleading, “I’m so sorry Mom!”
I listened to a girl tell her father, “Stay the fuck out of my life!”
I know she’ll regret those words . . .