Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

I am in Arizona, cooling my heels, at our jump-start to a happy retirement in a senior mobile home park called Mesa Dunes. We do not own a double wide on “Millionaire’s Row.” Our skinny version was bought on a whim, sight-unseen, from another Minnesota couple, Velma and Roy. 

On startlingly brisk desert nights, my husband and I walk the park wearing gloves and hoods. Our feet slap, slap, against the tarmac. Owls call from a palm with fronds like a wild man’s hair. Their hushed pleas remind us of loons up north back home. Eerie, sad, foreboding.

We peer into other trailers. In the bright circles of light inside, seniors are playing pinochle and five hundred. I think that it is good for them to play cards. It keeps them from running out of nice things to say about people they have known for 50 or 60 years. Afterwards, they fill their mouths with sweet cake. 

Back in St. Paul, my 95-year-old blind mother is cooling her heels at the Care Center. I call her on the phone. She is petulant at being alone, although the people there love her and she loves them. Somehow she got her former Somalian aide’s home phone number, and called him to please come back to the home and be her aide, as she missed him. He told her that, sadly, he could not. It was better to drive the cab, as he had a big family. 

On the night I got home from Arizona, I was cooling my heels, unpacking. I got a call from the Care Center. My mother had had a stroke. I ran the mile alone in the dark — as fast as fast, my flats splatting against the steep concrete incline. To see her unconscious, in the white bed, loosely gowned in cotton with stars or little snowflakes on it. Her last meal was apple pancakes, they said. 

For days and days I spoke to her and stroked her veined hands. “It’s OK, it’s OK,” I told her, as I’d once said to my sick children. 

After her death, a different man, who had once cared for her, and been moved to work on another floor, had asked that when she died he be called to say goodbye. My husband and I stood outside the closed door. We leaned against the hallway wall before the mortuary people came. 

What did the young man say, or pray, to the tiny woman inside on the bed? She had meant something, something profound, and now she was gone. 

If we were all blind, as my mother was, would we befriend all people? Our love offered because of the ring of a cheerful voice, a deep or lilting laugh, a gentle touch.