With breakfast in our bellies, my children eagerly engaged Grandpa in a cutthroat game of Go Fish. They delighted in my parents coming for a visit to the island and had drafted a tight schedule of activities and adventures for Grandma and Grandpa. I was washing up the last of the dishes when my mom approached as though holding a mischievous secret. “Let’s get ready for our lunch date. What do you think?” Perplexed by her offer, as we had just eaten, I flashed her a curious smile. We had a long-standing tradition of noon rendezvous, just the two of us feasting and delving into a myriad of conversational topics. It was sacred mother daughter time so when she called me to court I didn’t so much as question her intentions.
I kissed the heads of those blissfully lost in play and we headed to the car. Once we sat, my mom grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes. “This is the last time I will be able to come and visit you. Here’s what I want to do darling. Drive us to the grocery store. Buy me a bottle of white, buy yourself a bottle of red and we will head to Dockton Park. I have things I need to tell you.”
Struck in this moment, I realized my mother was dying. All the talk about cancer, treatments or lack there of, and hospice had not prepared me for the sudden acknowledgement that I would lose my mother. This was it. Our last hurrah.
“You got it momma.” I wasn’t drinking at the time because I was emotionally at war and alcohol fueled the enemy. But hell if I wasn’t going to drink with my mother on this day. In godspeed there we were, 10am in the store buying wine. No food. We didn’t have time. And we marched back to the car and drove straight to the park.
The bitter February rain relentlessly pelted the car. We parked in the upper parking lot looking out into the gray face of winter. Raising our bottles, we drank like two queens of the Nile. Time ceased and the water of Quartermaster Harbor froze before us. The car erupted with laughter and rich stories, reflections, and gratitude. Everything came flying out of this 35-year-old cornucopia of memories. As we neared the bottom of our bottles my mother was preparing for a last toast. She went to pour into her paper cup and missed it completely hosing the entire center console in sweet elixir. Tears of hilarity folded us together. Arm in arm, love engulfed us whole.
Several hours passed. It was time to take mom home. Like bringing a drunk teenager in after curfew, I snuck her past the watchful eyes of my father and tucked her into bed. She definitely needed a nap. I lifted the blanket up to her cold hands and put my lips to her cheek. Tears traversed our faces. “Sleep well momma.” Her eyes closed and I stood there marveling at each breath of her body until the sound of my son calling me drew me from the room.