by Marcy Dilworth
Read her story Orange Communion here
First, a shout-out to Kristina Saccone for championing this project that explores caring for our aging parents and other folks who raised us. The topic doesn’t get the coverage I’d expect even though it’s nearly universal. Back when I was taking care of my parents and my uncle, I would have loved, at the end of a long day, to sit down with a thoughtful collection written by people who had been through some aspect of what I was experiencing. The feeling of community, of reassurance, would have provided a much-appreciated balm. And likely some practical advice.
I always knew I’d write about this time in my life but had only done so in long, blathering journal entries until I took a CNF class with the warm and talented Caroline Bock. I randomly chose an orange as an object prompt, with no conscious suspicion of the strong emotional associations lurking below. Until a few minutes of free-writing unloosed a flood of memories.
The act of writing is a gift, it needs you to remember and pay attention. It’s not self-indulgent to drift amidst memories and feelings and impressions; it’s a necessity.
Starting with the orange allowed me to focus on a single, potent thread. So did the passage of a time. Looking back, I could see connections I wouldn’t have had the time, or the bandwidth, or even the impulse to consider in that present.
That time was harried, full of bursting emotions and complex worries and a jumble of lists. I could spare a thought to the big-picture, stick-in-the-throat fear of my mother suffering and dying, but that shared space with getting my kids where they needed to go (Am I neglecting them?), trying to keep up with work (Is my career over?), feeling exhausted (When will this end?, “Oh my God, this is going to end”), and always feeling like I wasn’t doing enough.
Writing this piece years later helped me reconnect with the tenderness of spending that time with Mom. I sat quietly with what took place and the silence filled with Mom’s presence. The smile. The sense of humor. The feeling of safety and consuming love I felt when I was with her. Even as I write this, though it may sound goopy, I’ve got tears rolling down my face. I miss her every day, and appreciate that writing this specific set of scenes let me experience how we really were. How it felt to be with her. How glad I am that we got to share those waning days together. Those days were all the time we had left.
After a lifetime of mooning about writing but working as a finance executive, Marcy Dilworth finally succumbed to her love of writing. She explores family and relationships and other mystifying topics, and particularly enjoys storytelling through a child’s perspective.