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WELL DONE! Mother's Day by Will Maguire

Mother's Day by Will Maguire

The last time my mother knew me was a few years ago on Mother's Day.

She had started forgetting and remembering in the wrong order.

Forgetting the things around her, remembering the distant past. Like time was suddenly dyslexic.

They had her in this hospital ward for the elderly on some backstreet off the main drag called Memory Lane

Memory Lane would be funny if it wasn’t so cruel.

She kept asking for a mirror but didn't recognize herself anymore.

She was seventeen again but trapped in an eighty-year old body. A young girl staring in disbelief at the person she would become.

She didn’t know her husband or daughters or sons anymore.

Some days she thought I was her long dead uncle or her brother. And near the end she thought I was her father.

She pleaded with me again and again to let her see that Irish boy that was just back from the war. The one that got shot in the head and survived and kept knocking on the door late at night.

The one that was somehow in love—the genuine article—before he could possibly know all it demands.

“Please Papa…please let me see him."

“Ma….it's me. Your son.”

“He’s different Papa…. please don’t chase him off again. Let me go."

"Please… I think I love him….”

I felt my heart break once more and my eyes fill again, listening to the start of that sixty five year kind of love still seventeen in her mind.

“Please Papa…let me go.”

I stared at the floor, then looked into her eyes.

I reached out and put my hand on her cheek and nodded. I felt the words thicken in my throat.

“Yes,” I whispered. “Yes of course. You can go."

Then I left the room and fell to one knee in the hallway until a nurse stopped, worried it was my heart.

She never recognized me again. And a few days later the world finally let her go.

She had twelve kids with the boy I gave my blessing to...that sounds like a lot unless you’re Irish Catholic.

To me it just sounds like the buzz of hunger around suppertime. It sounds like an argument over the last pot pie or my father saying grace each night.

It feels like old worn out hand me down pants with new patches scratching at my knees or my little sister's sweaty hand on her first day of school looking up like I was the sole thing on the planet worth trusting.

And it tastes like powdered milk and baloney sandwiches and it smells of sea salt in August on a one week vacation to the Cape.

Twelve kids is full of rivalry and resentment. It is bloody noses and black eyes because some older kid was always picking on the brother you don’t much like but love just the same.

Mostly twelve kids is never being alone. So each night I used to sneak up off a side porch, pull myself onto the roof of the big money pit house we lived in, lay back on the shingles and sing to the stars.

And later she told me she would listen out her bedroom window in the dark for the sound of her left-handed son calling out to the sky.

Twelve kids was the proof, in food and oil bills...in shoes and second jobs of how much my father loved my mother.

He still does though she doesn’t remember any of that now.

So I remember for her.

“Please Papa…I think I love him."

That last Mother’s Day my father said “Call your mother. Let her hear your voice. It helps."

So full of dread and heartache, I dialed and listened and called out once more for connection. And she answered and remembered me for a few minutes. That last Mother's Day.

We talked about love. Just a few words filled with the weight of feeling and thrown out over the wires between us.

Then the line went dead.

I'm a long way from seventeen now but some nights, like my mother, I look into a mirror and don't recognize myself anymore.

My eyes are no longer my own. They've become someone else's. Filled with all they've had to see.

But in the morning underneath I still see hers.

It makes me think someday I’ll be able to see the world like she did. With gratitude and humility. With understanding and faith.


So today I’m full of remembering and forgetting. They come jumbled together.

I think my heart's dyslexic.

It gets lost on Memory Lane.

I still hear my father say “Call your mother."

It helps.

So I do. I call.

I call out with small words full of the weight of feeling.

I whisper my remembering into the forgotten.

And tonight once more I’ll climb onto the roof of me, sing to the stars and pray she's still listening.

Will Maguire is a writer and songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee. His most recent short stories, “Higher Power” and “Unisphere,” have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post.

Will Maguire is a writer and songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee. His most recent short stories, “Higher Power” and “Unisphere,” have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post.