It’s like running out of breath, isn’t it?
As if you’re jogging too fast.
Unable to recover your breathing.
Gasping for air.
I’m doing those blocks you gave me. They’re really good.
Blocks? I think a couple of ticks.
Oh, the puzzle books!
Yes. Books not blocks. I get mixed up. They’re good for [gasp, gasp] . . . I do them.
Like that last pushup.
Your arms struggle to push your body from the floor.
But you just can’t.
Yesterday when your dad and I went to the . . .
I wait a couple of ticks, then:
Where did you go?
I don’t know. [push, push, collapse] I know I wanted to tell you.
That’s okay. You’ll remember in a minute.
Sometimes you do. More and more you don’t.
You feel weary.
I feel you slipping away.
You work the puzzles, but you’re tuckered out.
It’s like you’re dozing off,
then perk up a second when you remember something you want to tell me.
But your mind is muddled with fatigue.
The words tangle in their own descenders and beaks.
We’re working on the . . . At the . . . [Deep sigh, shoulders fall.] I don’t know, I forget . . .
Sometimes we can untangle the words together.
More and more, weary of fighting to find them, you just let them go and shuffle away.
Sometimes, it’s like waking up from a great dream you want to share.
But by the time you find me, . . .
I really wanted to tell you something, but I lost it before I got here.
When you manage to string two or three sentences together,
the words scrape across the gravel that has collected in your throat . . .
Here, have some of my water.
. . . because words travel less and less across your vocal chords.
Still . . .
You amaze me.
Ever the athlete, you’re strong in this race, even as you gasp for air.
Always the coach, you’re inspirational, even as your arms fall limp and you collapse.
Still the sage, you’re wise, even when your words dissolve, silenced, on your tongue.
Forever my mom, you’re my role model, gravel-scraped chords, diminishing gaze, and all.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020