By Robin Romm
What I really want is to be able to travel
through time. I would be younger; my mom would be healthy. We would
be in her car, folk music playing. She would be annoying me by
holding the notes too long, after the beat, just to hear her own
voice. We’d be driving to the department store in the small town
mall to buy a slip for a thrift store skirt that I insist on
wearing with work boots. Or maybe we’re headed to the grocery store
to buy the lettuce, tomato, and cucumber for the nightly salad.
She’d ask me questions about my friends, the car veering outside
the yellow lines as she looked at me.
I’ve started playing a game with God. I say: You can take my life
three years early if you give me back my mother, without any health
problems, for one full day.
One full day, I repeat to God. That’s nothing! That’s one day and
you get three of my years. I wait for a lightning bolt, a crash of
thunder, a little glowing heart palpitating by my eye.
Okay, I will give up one leg if you give me back my mom forever,
even in a really compromised position.
I’ve gone through fingers and toes, legs, arms, and love. I have
offered to strip myself of many beautiful things since that’s what
God seems to be after. But he refuses to take me up on my
And then I feel guilty, because I know all these offers are made in
vain. I know I cannot get my mom back healthy for a day. I haven’t
had a healthy mom since I was an angry nineteen-year-old who
couldn’t have cared less. My mom is sick, sick and dying, and no
bargaining will change that. And it’s in all the books, bargaining,
which makes me embarrassed. Look at me grieving my textbook grief.
The trades I offer God are safe, because they’re impossible. I know
in my heart that I won’t have to lose a leg to keep her, because
she cannot be kept. Is this because there is no God? We are just a
mass of cells and our cells make our consciousness and when we die,
our consciousness dies—all our memories and histories, the calculus
we learned, the case law we studied, the way we loved roast beef
and pickles. It’s gone with our cells, gone gone gone.
But until it’s gone, it’s here. And when I get a moment alone with
my mom, which rarely happens anymore, I feel her alive in her body.
She’s still my mother. I still find comfort in her while she
sleeps. There is still a person in the world to whom I’m
From THE MERCY PAPERS by Robin Romm. Copyright © 2009 by Robin
Romm. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an Imprint of Simon
& Schuster, Inc, NY.
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