We gathered in mom’s garden to remember mom today, three days before she died. 

As mom became less and less, I was afraid the withering body would replace the feisty, strong woman, the dying journey would supplant the memories I wanted to carry forward. 

We gathered in the garden to remember mom, and we remembered the feisty, strong woman: the teacher, the family glue, the creamed corn and tomato mom. Her withering didn’t come up.

I’m not sure this is how it works for everyone, but for me, it was safe to be at her side as she withered. The memories I carry forward are the good ones. 

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.
Mom at garden fence

Going Home

I spent a week at home. I’m going home today.

It’s a tricky word.

Maybe I’m polydomestic? I am at home —truly at home— in multiple places. I never love leaving, but I have learned that leaving is okay, because I am at home at either house.

I’ve been at home away from mom for eight nights. Nine days will pass since I saw her when I see her tomorrow. I didn’t miss her because I don’t miss people or things (I’ve explained that before), but also because she was with me. Whenever I closed my eyes.

When I close my eyes

For these eight days away from home at home, mom has been whole. For me, anyway. I close my eyes and I see her through my front window. She’s weeding the walkway to my porch.

The phone rings, my heart jumps. Maybe it’s her on the other side, in from the yard for water and a snack, blowing salt off a chip before she chews it in my ear.

Before I forget, I wanted to tell you…

She thinks of a lot of things when she’s weeding, gardening, or mowing. Maybe this is the third call of the day. Sometimes she apologizes, “… but I was afraid I’d forget…” Mostly she doesn’t, just blows her chip, chews, and begins explaining.

She’s wearing one of dad’s old GE work shirts, long sleeves, white cotton with splatters and smears of paint. Bright Capri pants also speckled in the colors of the walls of all the houses. She has a bandana tied around her neck, a brim hat on her head, and her garden gloves under her arm as she blows her chips.

When I close my eyes at home away from home, this is how I see her. Not in a hospital bed or a chair on wheels. Not broken.

She’s busy in the garden, in the yard, taking breaks to call me before I forget

When I listen

I hear it, the noise outside. Is it the Kubota or the Husqvarna? She’s mowing. All three yards, the driveways.

She’s wearing the red bandana today. If I need her, I have to chase her down. She can’t hear for the headphones and the mower.

Sometimes I hear dad hollering, “Martha!” because she’s running the mower too close to the barbed wire. “You’ll shred the tires!”

She can’t hear you, Dad.

Or maybe I hear the mower stop, and she yells across the acres, “John!” because she straddled the ditch. “I’m stuck again!”

He can’t hear you from there, Mom.

She’ll walk through the fields, bending over to pull weeds along the way, and fetch dad. I hear the John Deer come through the field to pull her mower out. Muffled voices, maybe dad fusses, maybe mom thanks him, and the mower starts again. She has a lot of yard to mow.

Leaving and Going Home

I’m packing at home to go home today. I’ll see mom tomorrow. It’s been a good trip. I saw friends, ate many different foods (taking a break from my farm staple of cheese tortillas). I weeded my flower beds, I mowed. Every now and again, I closed my eyes.

I’ve enjoyed seeing mom, listening for her these eight days.

I’m going back home, to the farm this time.

I don’t love the leaving because I like this home, where I close my eyes ninety miles away, seeing her whole. But I know I’ll be fine when I get there, happy to see her again.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022