laura musselman

Preparing to Use a Fork, by Laura Musselman

When I dream of my mother, she is hiding in the farthest corners of dimly lit rooms, bewildered and pale-faced and all bold, brown eyes. This is not unlike the real image she inhabits, sitting in her walker or on a paisley-cushioned bench at the end of the hall as she tries to piece together the portions of my face, my hair, my body into something that falls just short of familiar or safe. 

My mother looks small sitting there, every day smaller than I have ever seen her. Frail, and barely there. The clothes that used to fit her snugly hang from her shoulders, sleeves like a tent meant to house the loose, wrinkled skin that hangs from her frame. She is my mother, of course, made up of the same cells that webbed into the bits and pieces of her that used to swab my dirty face with saliva and rub my back when I was sick. Conversely, she is not my mother. She is a ghost. And I am her daughter, and I am not her daughter. I am a stranger most every day she sees me.

Each time I see her, there is less to see. When people ask how she is doing, this is what I say. She is disappearing, and one day I am afraid she might fall through the space between the bench cushions. One day, maybe she will. One day, there will be nothing left. I know this, and yet my visits become less regular, less dependable. To see her is to see the formidable truth that soon she will no longer be there. And I am not that brave.

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