She walked slowly and with great effort, her walker scooting in front of her, her son walking next to her. I caught her eye and smiled broadly at her, and her face lit up. We were walking slowly, too, as this was Dan’s first foray out into the world since his knee surgery last week. I felt my heart lurch…Mom has been so in my mind lately. It may be the holidays coming, but the tears seem closer to the surface than usual lately. We walked into one of our favorite restaurants, The Fish Market, which has become our usual place after going to the Y on Saturdays, and was one of Mom’s favorite places because…fried shrimp- her favorite. It was the last place that we took her out to eat before she fell and then died a month to the day later. We ate our meal, laughing and talking, and as we stood to leave, I told Dan that I wanted to say something to the woman who was sitting just two tables away from us. I walked up to her and knelt down beside her, “I wanted to tell you that you are beautiful. I used to bring my mother here and she loved this place.” At this point, my bravado failed me, and I choked up. “I saw you, and my heart smiled. Thank you.” She smiled, looking slightly shocked, and said, “Oh, my, thank you!”. I touched her shoulder, stood, and quickly walked out, trying to compose myself.
All of this made me remember going out to eat with my mother. Dan and I still laugh about it to this day, as the routine was always the same. We would sit at the table, making our decisions about what we would have, the waiter would come to the table and address Mom, “What would you like to drink?” Mom would look at me, mumbling under her breath, “I’ll have a Sprite.” We would say, “Mom, tell the waiter!” And she would look at the waiter and shyly say, “I’ll have a Sprite.” It was always this way when we went out…she looked to me to tell the waiter what she wanted. The same thing happened when it came time to order food, too…”I’ll have the fried shrimp..I love fried shrimp, Neese.” I know, Momma…tell the waiter. “I’ll have fried shrimp..and coleslaw…I love coleslaw…oh, and baked beans. Love those, too.” She would be dressed to the nines, knowing that we were taking her out, and she would beam her beautiful smile at everyone she saw. She ate carefully, with great dignity…watching that she didn’t spill anything on her “shelf”. I never go to The Fish Market without thinking of her. Don’t guess I ever will.
As the holidays approach, I gird my heart and hold onto the happy memories I have. There are so many. My heart may ache from missing my mother, but she left me with so much joy, so much love. I am nothing but grateful.