I walked down the arrivals corridor, shoulder muscles screaming for sleep after thirty hours of transatlantic travel. My aching, swollen feet had frequented this drab stretch of carpet numerous times in the eight years leading up to this occasion, but this time was different.
On every other trip, without fail, come rain, storm or hail, the same smiling eyes that nursed me to sleep as an infant were waiting to greet me at the end of the corridor.
But like I said, this time … was different.
You know that phrase, “conspicuous by its absence”? Well, her absence was not just conspicuous. It was painfully obvious. Screamingly obvious. Heart-wrenchingly obvious.
I wrestled my brain to accept the present reality:
She’s too sick to come to the airport.
The paper of my soul is worn thin in that chapter, the one I’ve tried so vigorously to erase from the pages of my memory, yet to no avail. It was the night she fell. Twice. And I was there … but I wasn’t.
The pencil etchings and ink blots of those weeks just won’t disappear, no matter how relentlessly I may force the eraser back and forth between the lines.
That first night, after traveling alone with three kids across an ocean and six time zones, I sank wearily into the underinflated air mattress, and quickly slipped into unconsciousness.
What seemed like days later, a shadowy figure shook me awake. My swollen, tired eyes tried to open, but in the darkness they could only discern an even darker figure – it was talking, but I couldn’t process the message.
“Mom fell. Again. I’m going over there to spend the night at her condo.”
Was this a nightmare? Surely it was. It had to be. This could not be happening now.
The shadow vanished, and I let my head sink back into the feather pillow. But my mind would not rest. It was just a bad dream, right? Or was it?
I shuffled downstairs and found my brother-in-law pacing in the moonlit sun porch.
“Is this for real?” I asked, still in a fog of fatigue.
He exhaled loudly, like a pressurized helium tank deflating. Then reluctantly, he confirmed, “Yep. It is.”
The second portion of this post was written as part of Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five-Minute Friday writing challenge. It was written in five minutes on the prompt, ‘Fall.’