The afternoon went on for hours, or at least it seemed that way. I met my mother in Manhattan for a long overdue lunch. We shared memories, stories and bad jokes over Chinese food, including egg rolls that reminded me of the days she used to wheel me in a stroller down 86th Street in Bensonhurst and stop at the Chinese place there, before we were kosher.
Braving the freezing cold I gave her a tour of Times Square and Midtown and we talked about how much it has changed since her last visit years ago. I tried to explain all the stuff she’s missed lately, like 4G smartphones and tablet computers and hybrid cars and Obamacare.
But after a while reality, like walls of water held back by a faulty dam, inevitably came crashing in and I was alone in my car, driving home from her nursing home after her latest health crisis, which started with a call at 6 a.m., and wishing that familiar wish that it was all a bad dream. She has been sick now more than half my life, and I struggle for memories of her when she was healthy.
Mitch Albom’s 2006 novel "For One More Day," has the protagonist, after a life of regret, magically revisiting his late mother, a chance for eluded closure and to ask questions he never thought to ask.
My mother is alive, but still I wish for that kind of day. I had something close to it.
In July, 2009, I stopped by my parents’ home on the way upstate to join my family. My father wasn’t home, and so I spent a longer time than usual speaking to her, one on one, with her caretaker in the next room. As often was the case, we talked about minutiae, things that were going on my life, news about distant relatives and events in the news. There was no way to know it would be our last conversation. That week she went to the hospital as Parkinson’s robbed her of the deepest chunk of her life yet, and she was left bedridden and unable to speak. Since then I can only rarely make out an occasional word or two she tries to say, and most often she has given up trying.
Unlike a lot of people of her generation, my mother rarely talked about her life, the times in which she lived and the challenges she faced growing up. A few years ago, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know where in Brooklyn, of the places I knew she lived, she spent the bulk of her childhood and she told me, Brownsville. The conversation didn’t last much longer as she predictably turned it back to me and my family. I could fill three pages with the questions I would have asked her if I knew.
If I had one more day.