the parent who remains

a note to my readers:  many of you know me and know my mother, so i feel it's important to point out that--like most of my poetry/creative writing--this piece is not autobiographical or even biographical.  it is, however, influenced by my own reflections at witnessing the strength and grace of many "parents who remain," including my own gorgeous mama.

she looks out the window and notices that the grass has been mowed.
someone mowed the grass and she never noticed and she can't think
or who
but it must have needed mowing and she is grateful
someone mowed the grass.
in a couple of weeks, she will need to mow it again.
and again after that.
and again and again and again.
for the rest of her life, this grass will need to be mowed.
she can do that.
she can absolutely do that.

she looks over at her husband's aunt
a very old lady
whose own only child lives an ocean away
and she knows that this aunt will need to go to the doctor soon.
in a few months, she will need to be the one to move this aunt
into a nursing home.
and visit her after that.
again and again and again.
for the rest of her husband's aunt's life, she will need to be looked after.
she can do that.
she can absolutely do that.

she looks around her at the house and all the people in it
a lot of stuff and a lot of people
and she thinks of oil changing, thank you card writing, retirement planning, dishes washing, grocery shopping, churchgoing, window replacing, dinner eating, dog medicine giving, trash taking out, taxes completing,
and representing
out and about in the world
and deciding
all that deciding
that she will need to do.
she can do all of that.

looking at her children,
all grown up
as grown up as they will ever get in her eyes,
she does her very first deciding since everything changed.
she decides:

i will watch my children be heartbroken.
i will not try to cover up their pain or pretend it doesn't exist.
i will not offer them stupid platitudes that make them feel oddly guilty about being sad.
i will not act out when their father's memory seems to get more attention than my living presence.
i will accept their help when i really need it.

they are each, in turn, finding her in the room
every few minutes
checking in with their eyes or a hand on her arm as they walk by
she is heartbroken too
and she knows they know that.