As I washed the dishes I thought of her. Her dishwasher ran well (unlike mine) yet she always did some dishes by hand. Truth be told that always irritated me.
She always washed. She liked washing.
I always dried. It was my job.
I remember what her hands looked like under the running water, smoothing over a pot to make sure she'd gotten all the gunk off. I remember the conversations shared over the steamy suds, white cotton towels and assorted pots & pans. Sometimes it was her childhood or child rearing years. Sometimes it was about her marriage. Sometimes about the lean years when dad's construction business struggled. It's one of the only times we talked...really talked. I don't know if that's because it was easier to discuss real things --not just the weather or day to day activities, but real stuff-- while you could look out the window and be busy or simply because it's the only time we had alone.
Today, as I talked to her softly and stroked her hair, I thought of those times we washed dishes together.
Only a few years ago we stood over the sink, watching the squirrel at the bird feeder and sharing life.
Only a few years ago she still made Sunday dinner and wrote birthday cards and tied quilts and went to Ladies Aid at church on Tuesdays.
Only a few years ago she talked about her life with dad and her boys.
Those days fade into memory as she sleeps in her chair covered with her soft velvety blanket.
Tears stained my cheeks as I remembered her hands...her busy, able hands that now hang limp. She can't read or walk or talk or enter in and lately she can't even stay awake. Her vacant, tired eyes barely stayed open long enough to focus when I whispered her name. She's not physically gone. But she--who she was--what made her her--is no longer... and we miss her.
Usually lasting at least an hour, today our visit only lasted a few minutes.
The kids cried. Brad looked sad. And I, well, I couldn't help stroking her gray hair and rubbing her arm and whispering to her and missing our times at the sink.