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Brattleboro, again

Sam's is the best outdoor store with a huge inventory of great things that are compelling to buy

I usually park a little bit further away so it's free, the Brattleboro parking app never works for me. This is the supply closet for some kind of old fashioned foundry with only daylight to light it and lots of dark, clunky tools and machines. I'm fascinated by it visually and will someday find out what it is

I'll be honest, at this point, it's hard to look forward to seeing our mom, as there's not much of her left. Gone are her sparkling and questioning eyes, any conviction in her words, the tilt of her head as she thinks about what she's going to say, even if it's not going to make sense. Her mind might not have been there but her spirit was Today I'm reminded that all these years, she has always driven the conversation, while I add to whatever she says, answer questions. I somehow don't know my part now. Cheery, newsy doesn't seem to be right.

I have a suspicion she can't see well, so when I arrive, I get right up in her face and give her a kiss and a big smile, and while I get one back, it's more a vague acknowledgement that I'm someone she knows. She looks around confusedly and within a minute, she's drifted off, despite Frankie Valli in his pink suit and pompadour insistently crooning "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" on the TV with some of the residents singing along. We move to a quieter place where she can look out at the trees and nature she's always loved and in an awake moment, I ask her how she's feeling. She stares back and me, or more accurately, right through me, saying nothing. Sometimes she mouths words to herself without talking. Later, I ask her again how she's feeling, uncharacteristically, she tells me everything hurts, including "the mental part".

We sit there, not talking, holding hands, she mostly dozing, but even then, her thumbs move, both of them, a habit that has evolved since she arrived five years ago, when she would repeatedly pet the soft furry blanket my brother gave her, moving her hands back and forth. Sometimes there'd be a glimpse of a smile.

The people who work there are kind, it's not easy work. Every time I go, the person who I'd just got to know is gone, and in her place is a new, young, sweet face. I wonder why the manager puts the HEROES board in the lobby for all of us to see, with photographs of employees who have made it 30 and 60 days, but none in the 90 day category. In a state that has limited employment options, it worries me that these good people are leaving so quickly. Should we do something? What? The elderly are so incredibly vulnerable.

I think about the dread I'd sometimes feel when we'd visit her at her independent living facility in Duxbury, which felt like an unwelcome reminder of the aging, sickness and death facing all of us. When she moved from there to the nursing home in Brattlebor, I looked back at the Duxbury days with longing, they were so much easier, more cheerful, they smelled better. Yesterday, I was again wistful for earlier days, a month ago, when she and her roommate Sandy enjoyed their popsicle ritual, our mom is no longer interested and her roommate moved to another floor. These are such profound reminders to appreciate what we have right now, no matter how miniscule they are.

Strangely, by the time Jean at Yalla, my most favorite lunch place in the whole wide world, introduces me to his apprentice (this is a first, no one but Jean or Zohar have ever touched the sandwiches), the knot in my stomach is gone and it feels right to bask in his easy warmth and incidental kindness. He confesses that Brattleboro is getting too city for this country boy, while two white haired women complain that they had to "Circle the block! Can you imagine?" looking for parking. That the world continues to march on feels heartless and reassuring.

I never veer from the Yalla Sababa, home made pita holding three falafel balls instead of the six in the full sandwich, with grilled eggplant, hummus and all the veggies. I enjoyed it outside watching, hearing and smelling the logging trucks go by, only slightly resentful that others were sitting on "my bench", talking about living in a yurt in winter in Vermont.

I had been looking forward to going next door to Mocha Joe's, where Nat and I have been entertained many a time, either in the dingy basement that can have interesting or funny art and people, or outside on the sidewalk in better weather. As instructed by Nat on Mother's Day, I tell them who I am and that there's something for me to pick up. Ashlyn, who has those wonderful gold framed octagonal oversized glasses the kids are wearing, confesses that she's new and is not aware of any order, and the other person, who seems a bit more clued up, looks in the black and white composition notebook under the counter and finds nothing, is apologetic. After a fair amount of earnest confusion and back and forth, the bag appears, and in it is perhaps my favorite mother's day present ever, well except for the little cardboard box with a sticker on it that has pink rocks and dandelion heads in it, a Mocha Joe's bucket hat. I can feel my funny, loving and far away daughter whenever I want now!

Ashlyn at Mocha Joe's

Sweet hat

Upon leaving the cafe, it starts to rain, cancelling out my hike, so I don my new hat and go about my business , buying shoes, and groceries for my dinner guest. A quick drive back through the fields and farms of southern Vermont showed me rows of corn, about 6 inches high, that looked exactly like corn rows. Home, a mini-gym visit to get the yayas out, dinner made and my friend, vital, happy, warm, so present, with cookies from Flour. It was a perfect evening.

I get uncomfortable thinking about swinging from such abject sadness to delicious gezellig in the same day, but I suppose that's the business of being human.


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