When I Look at You

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Chapter Twenty Four

On August 17th, my mother couldn’t walk anymore. The nurse said the cancer was affecting her mobility in her brain. Her legs and feet would move on their own sometimes but they mostly just sat there even when she tried to move them. That’s when she made the decision to head to the hospice home nearer to town. She moved in there the following day, leaving me at Dad’s house. Tammy’s youngest daughter NAtalie had returned home from soccer camp the same week. She was much nicer than Hannah who had pretty much disappeared for the time being. Tammy had her working long hours at the Wharf to help keep her out of view. Natalie was fifteen and very sweet. She was the perfect mini me of Hannah but in a sporty way. I could see why Tammy had said she was the good kid.

Mom seemed to do okay for a while. Though she wasn’t getting any better, she wasn’t getting any worse. I spent hours there everyday after work, setting up her room for her and just keeping her company. It was easier now with my car but still made me feel like I was leaving her forever whenever I went home at night. I still spent every day with Blaine. He would come with me most days to see my mom and would cover my shift sometimes so I could have lunch with her when she was up to eating. He was my rock in all of this and was the most understand force on my side.

One afternoon, Blaine came to relieve me so I could catch lunch with my mom. I drove to the Thea Tallman’s Hospice Center with a lunch pal full of tuna sandwiches and cucumber salad, the only thing Mom could really stomach these days. I parked out front of the red brick building and climbed up the steel steps that led to the front door. It was propped open, letting the warm late summer breeze in. Inside, Melinda was at the front desk like normal. She was a slender fair skinned woman with bronze colored hair. She smiled at me when I walked towards her. “Hey Kerri. How are you?”

“I’m good. Is Mom awake?” I asked. She nodded.

“Yup. She has some company I think. She’s waiting for you though. Go right on down.” She turned back to her computer. The Tallman’s Center is designed to feel like a home rather than a hospital. There are only six patients at a time here and most of them are all in the final stages of life. All but my mother are over the age of seventy but they all have cancer. Mom’s room was at the end of the long hallway that had sunflower wallpaper on the walls. I waved as I passed rooms, nurses taking care of patients or just visiting them. The facility is a great place with friendly people. I just wish I didn’t have to be here with my mom already.

Mom’s door was opened about halfway as I approached. I could hear music as I stepped closer. It was a rock ballad she use to play all the time when I was a kid. I recognized it right away. She said it was her and dad’s song from their first date. I went to push the door open when I heard her giggle. Quietly, I poked my head in her room slightly. There, I saw my father standing in the middle of the room. He held my mother in his arms, her feet standing on his own. Her right arm was resting on his left shoulder and their other hands were linked as they danced. He supported her body as they swayed to the music.

“You’re still a pretty good dance.” She said, looking up at him. Dad had at least a good two foot on her but they didn’t seem awkward together like this.

“You’re not as light on your feet as I remember you being.” He spoke winking down at her. They both laughed, oblivious to the world around them. She was still hooked up to her oxygen, the tube trailing behind her as they danced. Though she still looked weak and exhausted, her face was lit up more than I had seen it in years. Both their eyes sparkled as they looked at each other. It was as if I was looking at a couple my age at the prom.

It never dawned on me that my parents might still have feelings for each other. I’ve always felt that Mom resented Dad for leaving but that was before I found out they both had agreed to it. But now as I watched them together, it really rang true. They still loved each other. Probably just as much as they did when they first met. Forces out of their control had stepped in to separate them though. They never fell out of love. Life fell into them. It was to make sure I had a better life than they thought I was getting with Dad’s addiction. Perhaps they had thought they would end up back together once he was sober but then my resentment towards him probably stopped them in their tracks. I never would have let Mom get back with him in that mind set. He had hurt her once before or so I thought.

Reaching into my bag, I pulled my camera out. I turned it on quietly and focused it on the both of them. As I was about to push the shutter button, my father tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. It knocked her oxygen tube lose. Gently, he placed this back to and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. They stood there like that for a minute, long enough to capture it was my camera.

I took a few more as they began dancing again, laughing and joking bout the past. I enjoyed watching them, seeing the sight I had missed from my childhood. I had always wondered what it would have been like if my parents had stayed together like other kids parents. Watching them made me realize that they were the best parts of who I am. I had my mother’s strong will and free spirit. My father’s sense of humor and passion resided in me so deep, I thought I could almost feel it running through my veins. Tears brimmed my eyes as I looked at them. They could have found themselves again if I hadn’t been so hard. If only she had more time.

“Aren’t they cute?” Melinda whispered in my ear as she appeared next to me. I nodded, wiping my tears before she could see. “He comes here every day to see her. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen! You’ve got some great parents, kiddo.”

“I sure do. I’m going to take off, Melinda. Wanna bring those into them? I’ll come see her later.” I handed her the packed lunch. She smiled.

“Sure thing.”

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