When I stop in to visit my mother, if she can find any words at all that can be made sense of, she’ll often ask, “What’s your name?” Each time, I answer her with a smile that feels heart deep, as if it is pulling something long forgotten up into my countenance. She’ll often answer with something like ‘I have a daughter named Vicki’, and the smile within me deepens.

The last time I was with her, standing next to the new-to-her hospital bed as she settled, re-diapered, into a nap after a long morning and afternoon of doctor’s appointments, she asked me what my last name was. I told her what it is today, but then ‘reminded’ her that my last name used to be Forrest. She told me she used to have that name too!

It doesn’t bother me at all that she has no idea who I am. The clean slate that is her memory of me has allowed a measure of tenderness to return to my heart within its safety. I think to hers too, but I wonder how long ago she locked her memory of me into some back room in her mind to protect herself from the pain of me.

With no ledger of my transgressions, I am simply the woman standing before her, or sitting at her feet, whatever the case might be. Nor am I any longer the woman-child holding out my bowl for some scrap of nurture, no longer blaming her for being unfit to fill it, no longer protecting myself from my own measure of pain by cutting her out of my life….

Of course, that pain still can manipulate me. Those scars from longing to be seen, longing to be loved, mar my beauty. The intense fear of abandonment still needs a soothing balm from time to time. But that disfigurement is mine now. No longer hers.

Her eyes can no longer make out the shape of me. Although they never really could, she no longer tries to fit me into an image she can accept and understand. No longer needs to turn her back on me. I am simply woman. 

Sometimes I wonder about karma, if the atrocities we commit, large and small, come back around to haunt us. If the pain we once caused becomes the pain we fear, because we know firsthand how foolish humans can be. But I don’t believe in karma really. I think life is much more gracious than that, if we let it be. 

Sometimes I wonder if forgiveness is not unlike an old woman who forgets, who simply beholds the one standing before her as beauty. And I hold a mirror to that for her with my returning smile.



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