The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks

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. Something.

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 offers.

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 inextricably bound.


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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