“She just won’t let go of my finger, Father,” Mom uncurls the avocado phone cord, leans against kitchen wall and sighs.
I imagine Father could sense the exhaustion over the phone line. Mom spent hours zigzagging up and down neighbor’s driveways on Lonnquist; ducking into the Jirka’s garage to kill time and give her a break from my grip. Being two, I had to rely on Mom and big sisters to help me down sidewalks and into garages to practice this walking thing.
“Rose Ann, shall we pray? Let’s ask God to give Jodi the courage to let go of your finger and walk on her own…Dear Heavenly Father…”
And so it continued. Mom willing me to walk, but determined to allow me do things at my own pace, in my own time, in my own way.
“I couldn’t figure out if you were scared or stubborn. Or just not ready. God, those were some long days with you, kid,” Mom smirks pointing her finger at me.
It’s embarrassing admitting I took so long to learn to walk on my own. I’m not quite sure what was going on in my 2 year-old brain. Likely coils of self-doubt and fear.
The day I let go and likely clodded down the driveway was the Feast of the Holy Rosary. I was just shy of my second birthday. My shoes were battered. Gaping holes where leather had once been. All my walking partners- Mom, Katie, Jaime likely sang Alleluia!
Mom retold that story so many times over the years detailing how the priest called Mom that morning to check on my progress. Mom, not realizing it was a holy day, rejoiced in learning I’d walked on such a day.
“God is listening, watching,” she offered. “He knew you had the answers inside yourself and you’d take your walk when you were ready. And so you did.”
Today, we don’t recall milestones or the challenges they present with each other. There aren’t stories to remember.
Now, Mom whispers to herself about going home. About her dad coming to pick her up. About her Joe who she really likes a lot. About kids slapping her. About this fictious Mary Ann waiting for her outside. Sometimes, if you’re lucky you can insert yourself into a conversation she’s having with herself. This happened yesterday:
Mom: I think I am gonna go for a walk. No, just a short one.
Me: I’ll go for a walk with you, Mom.
(my insides exploding at the possibility of such a feat)
Mom: Ok, but I don’t want to stay too long. I’ve got too much to do. And my dad is coming to get me.
Me: I know. We will just go for a short one.
I quickly lace up my shoes before she (or Mary Ann) change her mind.
Me: Off we go to see the sunshine and hear the birds!
Mom: I can only go a little. I’ve got too many kids at home.
Mom’s cadence is slower than I remember now. I take her hand to help her off the front porch and notice how her age spots dance across her veins. She shuffles her feet down the driveway, her hand in mine as we cross the street.
“Mom, remember how we’d walk and walk and walk together? We’d go round and round the block,” I say as she swipes her hand from mine.
“I like my hands in these pockets,” she shoves what can fit of her hands in her pockets.
“I love you, Mom,” I say.
“Well, that’s fine,” she responds dryly.
I can tell she is preoccupied about turning around. And even though it kills me softly, I am now used to the absence of an I-love-you.
“I’m just gonna walk to that red thing over there,” she says pointing to the fire hydrant that sits right before the first cup-de-sac.
I turn us around, taking her by the hand and lead us toward home.
Knowing God is listening. Watching. Smiling even. I take a page from Rosie–knowing she too, does things in her own way.