On Wednesday my mother did not know who I was. For four hours, her eyes were vacant, her jaw slightly slack, her affect one of anonymity.
For four hours I sat by her bed, watching, waiting, worrying, and wondering. I could feel my heart slowly breaking, and after brief tears in the arms of my son, I could cry no more. It was so much more than sad; it was so much more than frightening. Prayers were groanings, for there were no words.
And then she was back.
"Hello, dear" were never more welcome words.
And yet I ache still from the memory.
Thursday I needed to buy pillows for our bed, and I bought four huge, puffy, luxurious ones from the clearance rack. I found silky cotton pillowcases the color of chocolate milk to stuff them into, and all these necessary but extravagant-all-the-same purchases gave me a little joy.
And so that afternoon I found myself ironing pillowcases. Ironing pillowcases. In a house neglected for days and days because of crisis, in a house where any moment someone will truly have no clean clothes because of the state of neglect in the laundry room, in a house where math papers need to be reviewed. And she irons her pillowcases instead.
Well, if I have learned one thing in life it is that grief and sorrow take on many faces. And Thursday mine took on the pillowcase ironing face. I stood there, sprinkling water on the crumpled surfaces, running the hot iron across, feeling the hot steam rising to greet me, and I watched as the creases disappeared. Beauty was there for the taking. I plumped my new chocolate milk pillows, made my bed a place of lovely rest, and for thirty minutes I was able to restore order to one little corner of my out of control universe.
So, you see, ironing pillowcases really did make a lot of sense for this time of worrying and wondering and watching. A lot of sense.