Washing down the windows
I am washing down the windows; the same ones my mother helped me with last year. The windows are glorious, double paned, large, and look out upon the free form garden, the pool, large kadota figs that hang like fertile men, and red hummingbird feeders that call to birds from miles around.
Last year, she helped me the way she did when I was a girl. She would sit on one side and point out the spots of fly droppings, the smears and any streak that came with the changing light. She swore by using vinegar and old newspapers, but I used paper towels just to bother her. She would point the mark, “Right there. Can’t you see it?” “If I could see it, I would get it,” I snapped fairly regularly. This is the dance of mother and daughter that lasts past the first half century mark and long into the second. It’s the same for making pie, or raising children. It’s really hard to get it right.
Mom would rise slowly from her chair, careful not to faint from her low blood pressure and the imbalance that comes with dementia. She would walk from inside to outside and point at the same spots like her mind was sharp again.
“Right there honey!” she would say.
I would do my best to make the spots disappear. I would listen to her, but roll my eyes sometimes over the redundancy of it all.
There are six windows on the west side of the house. By the fourth one, I was glistening with perspiration.
“Mom, can you get me a glass of water please?” I would ask.
And she would walk slowly with her arms out ready to catch herself. She walked from the door to the fridge and stared at it. The wheels in her turned slowly and sometimes not at all. She would open every cupboard door until she found the glasses.
“Ah, there you are!” she would exclaim to herself as if she were narrating a short film.
There was joy in those moments. Joy that she could find the glasses. Joy because, well, why not? She liked to walk like she was dancing in her head, or holding a skirt out at the hem, but she was also ready to fall. She would bring me the water like she was delivering a mink stole.
I am washing the windows a month after she has passed. I use a rubber wiper and paper towels. I go from side to side in the lonely room.
“Right there,” I say to myself, then I wipe the spot clean.
She used to ask me every night, for almost two years, which seat was hers at the table. I pointed to the chair and she would wait to be served. She liked being part of a family, even though she didn’t always remember whose.
I painted over the red kitchen walls with the chicken border. She loved all the chickens and my audacity to paint the kitchen red. It’s white now, just white, which makes the window dirt show even more.
I tell her it is spring again, mom. I hope you like the windows. The figs are already fleshed out and hanging. I know you would make a joke about them now. I’ll try to keep the feeders full, but I can’t remember everything. And there is silence.