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  • I want to sit with my mother.

    Her left hand is curled and tucked under her leg. Her right hand constantly pulls her pant legs up, pushes them down.

    I want to hold her hand.

    Her eyes are closed and there's a spot of chocolate ice cream on her nose. The nurse who's fed her has dropped some onto her t-shirt too. My mother has no idea.

    "I want to hold your hand, " I say.


    I reach for the hand tucked under her leg.

    "Don't! I, I, aye, aye, aye..."

    Never a stutterer, she stutters a lot.

    I hold her hand, see that her fingernails are long, ragged. There's some ice cream on her fingers. She pulls my hand up to her open mouth, sticks out her tongue.

    "Don't bite me, please."

    "No! I, I, aye, aye..."

    She pushes my hand away from her, sets it in my lap. Her hands look like mine. Veiny, the fingers the same shape. Her hands look like mine, only my hands are big like my father's. Hers are small, spotted and soft like old crepe stored for decades in a damp basement.

    "Can I cut her fingernails?"

    He says he was going to do that today. She doesn't like it, though. He brings clippers.


    "Mom? I'm going to cut your fingernails."


    One nail, the grime underneath drops with the clipping.


    I stand to sit on her other side. Move slowly. Take her right hand.


    "I'm giving you a manicure, mom." Clip. "Don't!" She holds my hand hard, sticky fingers squeezing mine. "Remember how we used to go to that lady for pedicures?" Clip, dirt, nail, finger. "No!" "Now you get to have a manicure at home." "No!"

    I'm trying to uncurl her fingers to get at a jagged pinky nail.

    "Don't! I'll, I'll, I'll kill you!!!"

    Her left hand grabs my hand too. She's holding so hard, pulling it toward her.

    "Okay Mom. It's okay."

    I sit beside her. We rest. She's gripping my hand. My knee's touching hers. Her eyes are closed. Softly, I say, "You had some ice cream today. That's nice... I've got a new job, Mom." "No. I, I don't..." "I do. I have a new job. I wish you could come see the show." "Yes?" "I wish I could have talked with you about it. I wish you could have given me some advice..."


    Her handhold's softened a bit. I go for the thumbnail. Two clips and the dirty nail falls.


    I twist my arm, trying to get a good angle on that pinky nail. Try to move the hand she's gripping, to raise that little finger. Clip.


    Her left hand reaches for me. She's grabbing my shirt.

    "Don't you pinch me, lady."

    "No?!? "

    "No. Don't do it. We're just giving you a little manicure, Mom. So you don't scrape yourself or someone else. Only one nail left to go on this side."

    I pry her hand off mine, she grabs it again but I manage to snip the nail off her index finger.


    "It's okay. This side's done. I'm going to sit on the other side of you now."

    The left side's easier. Not so much strength in that hand. I talk to her about her grand nieces, her nephew, my father. "Yes?" she says. Snip, clip, the nails and grime fall.

    "Okay, Mom, all done."


    "Yep. All done."

    I sit beside my mother. Her right hand goes back to her pant leg. Hitching it up, pushing it down. Like she's got an unbearable itch. Like she can't sit still. Though she can't walk any more.

    "You know one awful thing about this illness?" "Yes?" "No one has ever come back to tell us what it's like, what's going on in there." "No!"

    I put my hand on her head.


    "Okay, then, let's just sit."

    I say nothing. She fidgets with her pant leg. We sit. She leans forward, sits back.

    A few quiet minutes and her left hand reaches for me. She pats down my leg and finds my hand, pulls it into her lap, holds my hand.

    "I miss you, Mom. I miss you."
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