When I look out the window, I see it. It looms large across the creek. It raises an eyebrow. It bends an ear to listen and then to laugh at our surprise.
In an irony that could only be conjured by the Heavens themselves, the rest of Mom’s earthly possessions are in a storage facility that lies a straight arrow shot from her hospice room window.
I burst out laughing. We battled over some of these, these bits of wood, of paper, of metal, of plastic! There was indignation. There was rage. There were tears. These are the remnants of decades of moves, of pillar to post migration across Canada’s West. These are things precious and things that all of the adult children will want to claim at the parents’ passing. She is positive of this. She is steadfast, unwavering in her conviction.
What are you laughing at?
I let her in on the joke, Nona whose sight fades beyond a few feet, who couldn’t possibly have seen it on her own. Her eyes roll but she allows a laugh. She knows that it no longer matters, and she understands at last from her hospice bed that it never really did.
There goes my life!
It is a heart-rending cry, on the edge of panic and tears in the late days of August, 2019. One would think that her home was burning down, that an earthquake had ravaged the valley, or that a tornado had stripped bare the homes for miles around.
For me, it is a bridge too far.
Mom! Really? That’s it? That’s your life? What about us? What about your kids who are right here? We are literally right here in front of you. Are you kidding? That was a box for the thrift store!
I almost mic-drop the next box and very nearly launch myself through the sunroom door.
Hmmpf! She snorts and rolls her eyes.
They’re still my things!
We are joined in combat. We have been for weeks. Lois, the veteran of countless moves, of being uprooted still one more time has squared off against two of her remaining children. But this time we will win.
Because this time it is different. We all know it but it is still too new. It is still too raw for meaningful words. This time it is a quick move to the seniors’ home and an immediate transfer to the hospital for surgery.
She kept it secret as long as she could. She sat in the bathroom of her closest living best friend, bleeding into the toilet for a half hour.
Lois? Are you okay in there?
I might need some help.
Days later: colon cancer. Days after that: surgery.
And now, we are in hospice. The surgery was successful, the surgeon and his team a maestro with his orchestra. But lymph tissue is an angel and it is a devil. Several lymph nodes had already created several new homes for lurking, for skulking, for cancer cells waiting to inherit even more new homes, to fully inhabit the land that was Lois.
Lymph tissue. I paid attention, cold. I knew, suddenly weary. It was now a matter of when. It would never be if.
Nearly two and a half years later, Lois has done well. But here we are, looking through crisp, sparkling Winter air, across an iron creek to an edifice of brick and steel. Cancer bed, window pane, duck tracks in snow, ice-bound creek, cold asphalt road, ‘my life’ in boxes – my utterly useless, near meaningless crumbs entombed in cardboard, locked without reason in frosted brick walls.
It can all be connected by the flight of an arrow.
I do not tell her. She already knows.
One straight-shot, lifeless arrow.