I’ve been visiting my mom—or maybe she’s been visiting me—these past few days. It is that time of vigil, whether I want to keep it or not, that starting to mark off the days. Two years ago today, I was in Panamá for that turning point when my mom had finally decided it was time to stop with the chemo. Next will come the 22nd of May, when I stood at my closet, preparing to leave the next day to Panamá, realizing I needed to pack clothes that I could wear for my mother’s funeral or at least what we would call the celebration of her life. And then, until June 5th, all sorts of other markers and moments that are now inextricably bound to me.
This morning, standing at the kitchen counter because I was running so late I got to be here when Sherod woke up, I told him I thought we weren’t having enough fun and invited him to go to the movies after work. He said yes. The movie was silly and got awful reviews—it’s called The Wedding with Robert DeNiro, Dianne Keaton, Susan Sarandon. The theater was so cool, and dark and spacious, no more than 6 or 7 of us in that big room. It wasn’t too long before I was dosing off, my arm through Sherod’s, his hand on my knee. Even through the haze of my movie theater siesta, I was aware of how much he laughed at scenes my eyes just couldn’t open to watch. Sherod allows himself laugh so it shakes him to the very core of his being–that’s part of what I fell so crazy in love with.
The movie was over soon enough, we had dinner watching the news and then I left him to go walk. On impulse, and tired of the music I have on iTunes, I checked out On Being and got to hear a marvelous poet, Marie Howe talk with Krista Tippet about “the poetry of ordinary time.” Early in the program, the conversation turned to her brother Johnny’s death of AIDS and Howe read one of her poems, The Gate:
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This — holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This,
sort of looking around.
The poem could have been about my mom. It could have been about me. This. This afternoon in the theater. My arm touching his, his hand touching my knee. This laughter I love so much. This.