– Elisabeth Frost –
THE GARDENS AT WAVE HILL
I’ve been waiting for months for the weather to clear, for her breathing to strengthen, so I could take her here.
This time of year the peonies are flaunting enormous, weighty blooms, so top-heavy they have to be held upright in little pens. There are tiger lilies alongside them, and pansies so dark a purple they’re almost black.
The path from the parking lot borders the gardens just to our right. “Do you want to look in?” I ask, as we walk along slowly.
“No,” she answers quickly. “I’ve seen flowers before.”
Nearby, a couple leans back in Adirondack chairs. The woman starts to laugh. My mother shrugs.
We can still hear the woman several minutes later.
“I’ve seen flowers before!” she bellows to her husband, erupting into laughter once again.
In some ways she is still herself. She possesses, still, certain core qualities: forthrightness, disdain. And she retains gestures, expressions. “Ach!” she says, in disgust, when the oxygen tubing tangles her wrist to her cane.
Or the way she taps the fingers on the side of the recliner, as if the recliner could change anything.
And then there’s the way she looks at me, as she always has. Penetrating. She moves closer, a gesture to be followed up with commentary. “Why do you pluck your eyebrows so much?” she says. “Eyebrows are important, they give character.” Or, she likes my necklace, fingers the glass beads and pearls, not recalling she gave it to me.
That’s what’s changed. What she remembers. Or doesn’t.
Yesterday, outside the diner, where we took the ramp slowly, and I held the strap of the vinyl bag with the oxygen—a couple hours still in the tank—there, she saw a little pot of black and yellow pansies.
“Stiefmütterchen,” she said suddenly in her first language, nodding with assurance. “Mothers-in-law,” she translated, as I opened the wide swinging door.