I'm listening to my mother ramble on along the nerves of my voicemail. Blah blah blah..."movie, I think you recommended it..." yadda yadda yadda "no need to call me back, I just loved the scenery, which I think you mentioned..." yackety yack...eye roll, finger drum..."I just shaved my friend's head and I'm heading back home."
My eyes snap to attention with pin-pricks of tears. I am surprised at myself and dab at the offense as if they were foreign objects instead of close friends.
My mother is calling me with more frequency. She is holding her words out to me like connective dots. She is reaching and I see her arms, one thin and one lymphatic, as they extend...wait...retract empty.
Monday, I asked her how she is. "I am....." (long pause and my toe tapping) "....sad." A woman she plays bridge with is Stage Four. It's like a chapter, no...a book...a monument, a continent. STAGE FOUR. I've battled stage four every which way but physically. I won't do it again. I will stamp it on my forehead like a destination and pack my bags for everywhere I've ever wanted to go. I've warned my family. They know.
But this woman has engaged in the battle and she is not winning. This round of chemo has her walking with a cane and trying to hide her clumpy hair under an ill fitting hat. "I refuse to pay $17.00 for someone to shave my head," she says. "It's ludicrous." And I know how much cancer costs in dollars. I know how much it costs in other ways. I know how much it eats. My mother tells her, "I will shave it for you", and my first thought is those unsteady hands of hers. I wonder if she will have a drink first and give those cells over to their craving before she puts a blade in her hands.
My mother has actually called because she is sad about her friend and upset over the fact that she cannot get her hair clippers to work. The thought passed through my mind like the single filament of a cobweb...
but I let it pass in the stiff breeze of my concern with time and distance...and proximity.
I should have gone. I should have seat-belted my clippers in for the three hour drive and just gone...held the hand of my mother, and shaved the head of a stranger. I should have. And I could talk about how I never seem to do the right thing, but the fact is...this deed did not need me. It got done. I just missed it.