All I could think was
I’m not ready.
Not ready to lose my mother.
When Joe called me early that morning to tell me that she was in the hospital
in a voice that was meant to keep me calm,
I freaked out.
I hung up the phone and screamed.
Screamed, screamed and cried until I was sick.
When I called her, her voice was so small.
I tried to keep the tears in but I couldn’t help it.
She just keep saying,
“Don’t cry... I love you too.”
I apologized for crying, and hung up.
I spoke with mama today
She said the pain had gotten so bad that she was passing out and that is when she realized that she had to go to the hospital.
She called friends and asked for a ride.
They were worried.
They wanted her to call an ambulance.
She said “ No, I wanna walk out
cause I’m planning on walking back in!”
When she reached the hospital
They didn’t want to help her
because of how she looked.
Because of the locks in her hair
“But God gave me the pain at just the right time,” she said.
She passed out again.
They admitted her.
They didn’t give her anything for the pain,
because of the locks in her hair and the color of her skin
“They made me drink the liquid for the GI test even though I said I couldn’t”
My mother who graduated summa cum laude.
“But I threw up”
My mother a teacher of 30 plus years.
“And I kept throwing up.”
Because of the locks in her hair and the color of her skin.
“They thought I was a one of those pain pill abusers... or hooked on drugs.”
There was no anger in her voice, no shock or surprise.
Just an occupational hazzard of being a black woman who reused to let society tell her how to look while living in the south.
There is a tube in her stomach and sucking the stuff out of her intestines.
Her insides are twisted.
She says “ There were so many people here that they might as well have had fried chicken and red beans... It looked like a family reunion.”
“You’re on extreme detox momma,” I say after she tells me about the nutrients having to be pumped in intra venously.
“I’ll be a brand new woman... brand new on the inside,” She replies “I’ve been struggling with those last few pounds... I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that now.”
Family went to her FEMA trailer in New Orleans. to try to find something to eat... to help “clear” the fridge so she would not have to worry about food going off when she got back.
But they didn’t know what to do with contents of my mother’s refrigerator:
whole grain rice
alligator pearls (avocados)
kashi whole grain fiber ceral
“Aunt Ella said that it was all the fiber ...she said:
that’s what I get for eating all funny”
They made fun of her for the healthy foods she ate and all she could do was hold up her hand in protest.
“Look at the bread” They said to her.“ No wheat?! Seeds and grains?! Lawd Joyce if you dropped this so called bread on the ground it would grow trees!!!”
All she could do was groan and roll her eyes as they talked over her scolding her for eating funny and promising to feed her proper when she got out:
red beans with rice
collards with hammock
“Good Lawd!!!!” they said to her “It’s a wonder you aint wasted away on stuff like that... that’s not cereal that’s twigs and branches honey... Joyce when you get out of here we will get you right again”:
hot water corn cakes.
She’s not mad... not mad at all about the scolding, the wagging fingers, the gentle rebukes and pokes. She knows like I know like they know... food in the hands of a southern woman is not simply a dish, not simply a recipe but a magick spell passed from mother to daughter, shared from sister to sister, entrusted friend to friend. Powerful and potent potions stirred mixed from the mind rarely written that whispers the secrets of mothers gone and yet to come again.
Aunt Ella said:
You coming home with me when you get outta here.
Jeanie and Sharah said:
She staying here with us so she can get on her feet
so she can get back to work
Aunt Ella said:
She stays with me you hear!!
That’s my sistah’s baby
She commin home so I can take care of her
but there is a smile beneath it.
Don’t let them make you sick..er mama.
voice warm and worn and tried still the most beautiful sound in the universe to me
the sound of my mother’s voice in my ear
I know I have to let her go.
So she can rest.
But it’s hard to do.
I’ll never be ready to let go of her
I’m not ready
and I never will be ready
My soul is wrapped in her soul
I learned the rhythm of the heart’s beat from hers.
I learned to dance and sing and cry.
I learned to fight, and cuss, survive.
There are still things for her to teach me.
but I’m not ready for that lesson.
And I’ll never be ready for the last lesson she has to teach me
of letting go.