Fried Chicken and Angel Food Cake
By Pat Wahler
It’s a curious thing how one day can start out so much like any other. I sat next to Mom, and we talked about my children, both now grown and out on their own. A wrinkle creased her forehead when she asked if they were careful not to drive too fast. The wrinkle resembled the one I saw in my own mirror at home.
Around noon, we ran out of things to say, so I asked Mom if she’d like to have something to eat. She said she wasn’t hungry. Neither was I, so we ignored the smell of hot meat loaf that oddly mingled with the cedar scent of disinfectant used to mop the floor. It wouldn’t be as good as Mom’s cooking, anyway. That woman could make any food into a mouth-watering feast.
I turned on the television and let the sounds of baseball drown out mechanical blips and occasional loudspeaker announcements. Mom and I watched the game and wondered whether or not our home town team would win. She loved watching baseball. It reminded her of all the years my brother played. She missed seeing him.
During the seventh inning, Mom said she was tired and asked me to lower the bed. I pushed a button and the motor hummed softly as it moved her mattress into the reclined position. Her eyelids blinked slowly a few times. She sighed a small breath before closing her eyes. I turned off the television and watched the rise and fall of her chest. It reminded me of how I’d lean against her and drowse during the sermon at church. Sermons weren’t very appealing to a five year old.
In my teenage years, I no longer wanted to be even remotely close to her. Reckless with youthful superiority, I wanted to be seen as an adult, even though I was far from it. My smug attitude should have gotten me grounded for life. But Mom let me bluff and bluster. She never cared much for conflict. Instead, she’d stir up some home-made pancakes. No matter how disagreeable I wanted to be, the delicious aroma made it impossible to walk away.
Memories raced forward: college graduation; wedding; first grandchild. Mom responded to every significant event the same way. She’d bring a container filled with food made by her own hands meant to nourish, support or comfort – sometimes all three. My favorite dishes were her fried chicken and angel food cake. She made it a point to keep me well supplied, and I could feel her love in every morsel, even though she wasn’t one to speak the words.
But on that particular day, that not-so-ordinary day, we didn’t talk about any of those things. It would have been a good time for me to tell her what a wonderful mother she’d been to me. But I wasn’t one inclined much to say the words, either. But although I couldn’t fry chicken or bake an angel food cake, there were other ways to show her what she meant to me. I could hold her hand. I could talk about everyday things. I could watch and wait with her.
In the silence of the room I listened as a clock ticked, then tocked. It seemed to say that no matter what happened, time wouldn’t end. The sun would sparkle fire during the day. The moon would gleam on water at night. And the ordinary things of life would continue through time.
It wasn’t much later when something changed. Mom’s breathing became shallower, tinged with a faint rasp. I felt the skin on her hand beneath mine as it began to cool. Within a few short moments, I heard no sound except that of the clock.
My mother was with me when I entered this world.
I was with her when she left it.
There are more ways than words to let someone know you love them.