Sunday, August 5, 2012
I took these photographs of my mother, age 90, days before she left St. Lucia, where for the past two and half decades she had made her home. She left before dawn on Saturday morning, all of us arrayed around the car as she climbed so delicately into it, the night breeze briskly stirring the air, reminding us there was a tropical storm afoot, making the prospect of early morning airplane takeoffs an anxiety-ridden proposition. Our own flight back to New York was in a matter of hours, and the neighbor and friend who transported my mom and my niece and her mom to the airport would be back to get us later that morning. In the end, I was glad Mom left the house before we did, even though at the start of the week I could not imagine being in the house without her, even for a few hours. But it was better this way, to see her off, to have her leave the house, not empty, but still full of those she loves. There she was, the car's inside light shining down on her, making her small stooped frame a beacon in the pre-dawn darkness, as one by one we leaned in and hugged her tight, her body so tiny and thin against ours as we each whispered Safe travels, mom, grandma, beloved friend, we'll see you sooner than soon. Those of us who cried hid our tears, we stood on her blind side so she wouldn't see us and get triggered herself. We all knew that if she cried we would all be undone, we couldn't bear it, and she seemed to know it too, because she didn't cry, just gazed at each one of us in turn and smiled that deep soulful smile she has as if she was silently blessing us. When my son hugged her, she asked him to come with her to the airport, even though the car was already full. He ran back into the house to get quickly dressed, and my heart swelled because I knew if he was with her she would feel rooted, secure, she would trust him to hold her steady, to get her from car to wheelchair to check in counter to departure lounge. And I knew that my niece and my heart sister would also take care of her on the long flight back to Jamaica, including the six hour layover in Barbados, but still my breath felt caught until my niece texted me at just past 11 p.m. last night, Grandma is home. She is back at my brother's house, now her primary home, too.