Wednesday, December 1, 2010


FINALLY, THE MACULAR DEGENERATION had worked its evil on what used to be known as the good eye and mom was now, for all intents and purposes, blind.

“Are you still safe in the house?”

“I do fine. I sometimes have to use the flashlight to see what temperature I’m adjusting the oven to, but I keep it at hand, so I’ve figured that one out.” She paused for a moment of thought. “And since Peke died, I don’t have to worry about tripping over her. It’s been a year, you know.”

“I know.”

COPIES OF THE MEMOIRS, histories and little fictions I compose, I send to mom. Although she was a masterful touch typist in her day, when they brought computers on board, she’d have nothing to do with them. At 62, she quit. “Never used one, never needed one,” and she doesn’t own one at home.

Living 90 miles apart, I call on her once or twice a month. A couple of visits back, I heard the usual neighborhood gossip, the successes and failures of my nieces and nephews and was reminded that it had been more than a year since Peke died. After the news, mom picked up copies of my three latest posts and came to where I was sitting. “Can you read these for me? I can’t see to do it anymore.”

You don’t say “No” to mom.

She settled into her platform rocker – the one she purchased in 1946 and still holds the sales receipt for – as I began, stumbling over several poorly crafted words. When I finished, she asked a question or two, then said, “Read the next.”

You don’t say “No” to mom.

The second piece was a bit embarrassing. It was poorly written, didn’t have an arc and contained a couple of typographical errors.

Note to self: For God’s sake, read the stuff you write out loud, maybe in front of a mirror, before you waste electrons posting it.

The third piece wasn’t much better.

“I used to be able to see,” she said, “but now, well… I can tell where you are and that your legs are crossed, but if I didn’t know it was you, I couldn’t pick you out from your brother.” She sat with both arms atop the familiar arms of the old maple rocker. “I think I’m legally blind.” Then she added, “but I’ll get an additional tax deduction for that.”

RECENTLY, AT AN ELECTRONICS WAREHOUSE, which, for some reason, also sells refrigerators, candy bars and girlie magazines, I found an adjustable floor lamp with a circular fluorescent tube that ringed a powerful magnifying lens measuring about six inches across. I thought about it for a day or two and then returned to pick one up.

Setting it up over the right arm of mom’s rocker, I took her hand and directed it to the switch on the back of the light, having her turn it on and off a couple of times. Then as she sat in the rocker, I adjusted the lamp’s arm so that it could pivot out of the way for rising and sitting and pivot into position for reading.

“Try it out.”

Slowly she moved a copy of the local paper under the lens reading aloud the words that seemed to me sized large enough to be printed on one of those highway billboards between her house and mine.

Suddenly, she stopped reading and looked up at me. “It’s like Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one,” she said, showing rare emotion.

That day, I picked up her mail just before getting in the Nissan to head south. Another one of my stories had arrived.

Mom: Before the good eye gave it up.
LAST WEEK, cruising north on the motorcycle, I decided to drop in on mom for a moment. Surprised her. After formalities – the neighbors, the kids, Peke: It’s been nearly fourteen months, now, you know – she handed me the story that had arrived when I last departed and told me to sit down. “Read it.”

“Doesn’t the light work?”

“Read it,” she repeated.

You don’t say “no” to mom.

She settled into the chair and I read. Something about Butte Creek Canyon – a something in my history that I think she remembered.

When I finished, she thought for a long moment and said, “To answer your question, the light works fine.”

I looked at mom and then at the story and sat for a long time after that.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. If your intent was to make me teary-eyed, you succeeded. A very nice piece that many of us can relate to. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You know what's special to her, don't you. That one made me cry.

  3. TO: Thank you for sharing.
    I remember that was one of the toughest things for my grandmother (1901 - 1989) losing her beloved READING. How to pass the time when one doesn't read (and there weren't 5,000 cable shows to listen to ...then.) She could crochet without seeing very well, but one can only crochet so much.

  4. Great piece of writing Mr. B. I'm guessing your mom looks forward to these sessions more than you can imagine.

  5. Know the feeling. Mom just got out of the hospital after a virus fling and spent a week with us while the snow was flying and the power out. She was happy to work on her crosswords under generator lights. She is back home now, feeling good and waiting to turn 96 in March. We can turn the volume down on our TV now :)

  6. Nadina, Randy B's sisDecember 4, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    Very heartwarming story, I enjoyed reading it. What a wonderfully special time your visits hold in her heart and yours as well.

  7. Susan Davis, Randy&Nadina' cousin said....
    Read it first quietly to it out loud to your mate. Tears & laughter.....Strike out note to self.....I wouldn't want you to change a thing.