Part 6: Just Another Friday Night
Friday, October 23rd. It was a packed day of commitments from the school fundraising meeting to a promised-playdate to carve pumpkins. It wasn’t until 6pm that I pulled up to the quiet tree-lined street where my parents lived.
It was the first time I’d seen Mom dressed in days, wearing her striped button down we had bought recently at EA Davis along with a mushroom colored cardigan. Even with a walker, Mom looked healthy, radiant and herself. I was surprised yet pleased to see a bit of Lancome’s Champagne colored lipstick stained around her mouth.
There is so much to write about this last day, some details to share here, and some to keep private. Mostly I want to remember the ordinary rhythms of the evening, the markings of decades of memories with Mom.
My Dad, stationed behind a stove, his near-permanent spot in the family. My Mom, asking for seconds of my Dad’s homemade vanilla ice cream. The music, playing a symphony of violins and cellos, and providing a melodic backdrop for a typical Friday night dinner — chicken, rice and green beans. The candles were lit and Mom’s face was content in the glow of the flame.
I shared this moment with friends who believe we must have known it was her last night on earth, for why else would there be such fanfare over a Friday night dinner at home? But no, this is how she lived. Making the ordinary, everyday motions — extra-ordinary. The proof is in the ivory colored taper candles, melted down to a quarter of their size. This was just another Friday night dinner.
I snapped a photo of my parents, a which captures a couple reluctantly at the end of their 44 year marriage. His hand is on her shoulders, her hand on his. The flicker of the candles caught the leftovers on the table along with the fall-hued woven placemats.
A photographer friend edited the photo to remove any signs of illness, such as the pruned colored bruising on her hand — the result of too many needles. I have stared at the edited photo through out the last year, in disbelief that six hours later, Mom would be gone.
Yet lately I’ve been drawn to the unedited photo, which shows a marriage still standing after 44 years together, an exhausted Father and caretaker, battle wounds from a relentless combat with modern medicine, and a smile that still, after all this, transmits positivity.
For the unedited photo, the one without the photoshop or uplifting byline, tells the real story. That true gift of life is not something packaged in a tiffany blue box, but instead found in any one of those 2,294 Friday nights that were shared over a simple chicken dinner by candlelight.