My Mother Was Beautiful

I knew I’d be trading in daily bike rides and Strawberry Street in Richmond, Virginia for loud crowds and politics in the nation’s capital. It was one of those rare moments where I knew what I had to do. I knew before my dad asked me, eyes cast downward, if I would. Some would later call me heroic, a saint, an exemplary daughter. I could only wonder, “Wouldn’t you, too?” I knew I would cry if I had to tell anyone face-to-face, so I emailed a lot. I cried a lot too. Still do.

My mom started getting sick when I was 18. Our first indication was when she said, “You better thank us for those movie tickets we bought you,” to our good friends. “That was weird, that was rude, that was out of character,” we thought. Now, nine years later, I’m here, grasping her hand and pressing her head against mine, hoping this is just a bad dream, that she will come back, her frontal lobe will sprout perennial shoots like her carefully tended garden used to. Now it too stands in shambles covered in dead leaves, obscuring the life that grows beneath.