A Personal Essay From NW Writer’s Retreat

In my pocket I keep nothing. Not even my cell phone. I am determined that I will get some weird form of ovarian cancer from cell phone radiation that close to my hinterlands. I mean, cell phones haven’t been around that long, we have no idea what kind of weird diseases they might cause? It makes me think of Body Talk, this beautiful play I performed piano for. It’s sort of like Vagina Monologues. The stories about cancer left me breathless, foreboding like it’s a struggle that eventually every woman will have to face in some way or another.

I worry about my mom. She takes care of everyone else, but never of herself. I know she neglects doctors appointments and mammograms for piano recitals and dinner parties. I wish sometimes she would kick dad and I out and sob over Sleepless in Seattle for the billionth time. Time for herself. She needs that.

In her pocket, she keeps pens and an ID badge with the various colored codes listed on it. She’s an ER nurse, still, 24 years later. She is good at her job, smiling, dedicated and a friend to almost everyone. Her twelve hour shifts seem like nothing to her, but I used to listen to her ready herself quietly at six am, astonished at her resilience. Remnants of her are everywhere in our house, but she’s hardly ever home.

In her pocket, she keeps coupons and change. She’s frugal, my mother, the oldest of twelve. She got used to having nothing, so she makes sure I have everything. I’m grateful, but sometimes I get buried under all of it. It can be suffocating. She calls herself out on it. “I know, I’m such a mother,” she says in self-deprecation.

She loves to buy me things, and when we spend time together she always takes me shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but sometimes I’d rather sit with her at the park on a soft fall day and listen to her stories. The ones about her favorite teachers and her first pet and her last boyfriend before dad. But she doesn’t like to talk about herself, her past. She keeps it all neatly in her pockets.

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