Shadow Dance

RavioliMy MOM is 87.
I cook often for her
Working in her kitchen preparing a meal
with an 87 year old woman moving about in a childlike way,
placing ingredients where they don’t belong,
displacing items from where I need them to be,
trying to help, but causing me to have to do the acrobatics of a whirling dervish
just to get the meal completed and on the table.

Where’s the garlic? I just had it!
Don’t throw away that pasta water. I… needed that.
Please don’t put the cheese back in the fridge, I…

But I have noticed, over time, that there are actually four of us in this tiny kitchen:
There is me as a healthy adult;
There is MOM, as the elderly woman in need of care;
There is MOM as a healthy adult;
And there is me as a precocious and somewhat incorrigible six year old boy
in need of care.

Happy Child“You want pizza again?”
“YAAAAYYYYY! We Love Pizza!”
As Italian American Kids we always looked forward to Lent.
You couldn’t eat meat on Friday.
And that meant MOM made us Pizza Every Friday Night for seven weeks!
“Something smells Good!” we Kids would exclaim, all excited.
And Dinner is Delicious.

“Mom, you want pizza tonight?”
“Oh, that’d be Wonderful!”
“Something smells Good!” she exclaims with the excitement of a Kid.

LilArnieDressedUpThe Little Boy is crying.
“WHERE’S MOMMY?” He calls out screaming at the top of his small lungs.
MOMMY explains that she said she would be right back.
She takes the Little Boy’s small quivering hand reassuringly and calms him,
“I’m here.”
He has no understanding of how much is involved in taking care of him,
and making sure he is provided for…

with MOMThe Adult Male walks into the apartment and each time the Elderly Woman greets him in dismay, “I thought you were coming earlier.”
She is invariably overwrought.
“I said I’d be here dinnertime,” the Adult Male explains
And he takes the Elderly Woman’s small quivering hand reassuringly and calms her,
“I’m here.”
She has no understanding of how much is involved in taking care of her,
and making sure she is provided for…

He takes her for a walk and he is terrified she might fall.
She takes him for a walk and she is terrified he might fall.
But she needs to learn to Let Go.
He won’t be a boy forever.
She won’t be here forever.
Inevitably the time comes to Let Go.

“I’ll come again on Sunday, MOM,” the Man says,
thinking of all he’ll need to get done in the morning, beforehand.
“Will you be here in time to take me to church?” the Elderly Woman asks,
so innocently.
Instantly surrendering those much needed morning hours,
the Man responds reassuringly,
“Yes, MOM. Of Course.”
And the morning is Gone.

Lil ArnieThe Little Boy makes a campaign for Rye Beach PlayLand! He wants RollerCoasters and Tilt-a-Whirls and Spinning TeaCups.
“We’ll See,” his Mother says.
And one summer evening they get in the car,
and the next thing he knows, the Little Boy is on RollerCoasters
And the Mother’s evening is Gone.

She does not know he had anything else planned at all,
He does not know she had anything else planned at all,
Or just that he was tired and might have wanted to sleep in,
Or just that she was tired and might have wanted an evening at home.
Or how incredibly Not Fun he finds her traditional Catholic Parish —
it’s like being in an Amusement Park too old to go on any of the rides.
Or how incredibly Not Fun she finds an Amusement Park
when she’s too old to go on any of the rides.
The Elderly Woman will never know what it cost him.
The Little Boy never knew what it cost her.
She just got to be at Church…
He just got to be at Rye Beach PlayLand…
…And it was a Good Day.

Arnie with MOMTime is not Linear.
Every Moment, Past Present and Future, is happening in the same moment.
It is not so much a straight line, as it is a spindle —
the kind you used to see at the cash register of a coffee shop
with all of the paper checks piled on it…
And that is the Experience.
It is 2014 and 1966 in the same Moment.
I am the one caretaking.
I am the one being taken care of.

That Little Boy is getting in the way at every turn
And MOM is trying to get dinner on the table for six.
And everytime she puts something down on the counter,
when she reaches for it a moment later, the Little Boy has moved it

“I can help Mommy. I’ll just put away this garlic for her.”
“And this dish of water, I’ll just dump it out for her.”
“I’ll just put the cheese back in the fridge…”

IMG_2827 And though at times she is frustrated
and wonders if this meal will ever make it onto the table,
she puts the Little Boy first, and she works around him…
The kitchen is filled with the aroma of garlic sautéing in olive oil;
And the fragrance of fresh chopped BasilnegO…

IMG_2829The Whirling Dervish Acrobatics required to get dinner on the table in 1966
happen now in the small kitchen of 2014,
perfectly choreographed
For Two Pairs
Mother taking care of Child
Child taking care of Mother
Each coexisting with ourselves and one another
at different times in our Lives
In the same Moment
Just as they have always been
The mischievous Little Boy runs and flails about in tandem
with the Adult Mother of Four,
while the caretaker for the Elderly Woman
attempts to work around her unmeaning mischief…
It’s the same recipes, just as she taught him
Made with the same Love,
And in many ways for the same Reasons:
To Nourish
To Nurture
To help Grow Strong
To Create a Home
To Thank the other for the Joy they Bring
The Meal as an Expression of Love…
Sautéed Garlic; Fresh BasilnegO; Fresh Grated Parmesan…
The smells that emanate from the kitchen are exactly as they both remember them
from years ago.
The time will come to Let Go.
But not yet.
Not yet.

IMG_2876 And for this Present Moment —
Which is all any of us ever has
And the closest approximation of eternity we can experience in this life –
Dinner is Delicious.

IMG_2769

IMG_2873

 

 

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Michael Walters

     /  September 10, 2014

    good one! xoxo

    Reply
  2. Really touching, poignant and sooooo true!

    Reply
  3. Dara

     /  September 10, 2014

    How skillfully you capture the non linear connectedness of our lives. Your mother is very beautiful.

    Reply
  4. You’re a good son! And I wish I look so good at 87!!!

    Reply
  5. So very touching and very true. Such a unique perspective. Your mom is amazing and so are you!

    Reply
  6. patrice0959

     /  September 10, 2014

    Such a unique perspective. So true and heartwarming. Your mom is quite amazing and so are you!

    Reply
  7. Flo

     /  September 11, 2014

    Love you…….and I love her because she first loved you!

    Reply
  8. You got me teary with this one Arnold. Wow. The parallel lines you drew in this story make it SO powerful. You are an amazing storyteller anyway , and you always touch me, but this one in particular touched my heart in an emotional way. It is so beautiful, and you are so beautiful in the ways in which you have served others and the ways in which you serve your mom now. Your mom is so pretty too! The letting go is something that is so hard for me, as I am close to my mother as you are to yours. God bless you for taking care of her and cooking and taking her to church! Much love, Bekah Merry Life Bringer

    Reply
  9. Susan MacPherson

     /  September 12, 2014

    How can you get me drooling and crying at the same time? HOW!?

    Reply
  10. Atif

     /  September 15, 2014

    Nice post.

    Reply
  11. Gorgeous story about life. I love the notion of the coffee shop cash register of time.

    Reply
  12. Mary Lynn

     /  September 21, 2014

    Just beautiful! And beautifully done. Bravo.

    Reply
  13. Alicia

     /  January 3, 2015

    Beautifully and inventively written, Arnold. I seem to see all the years of exposure to musical theatre in the middle section when it sounds like the two would be singing together in counterpoint. You are a deep thinker and vivid communicator and its wonderful to see you trying to hone your natural skill. Keep writing and doing what you love.

    Reply

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