I walk into my mother’s room and she lights up with happiness. We hug, her body shivers with joy for seeing me after so long – one year, really, but God knows how long it feels in her mind. I hold her in my arms, afraid that she might break if I don’t. She keeps repeating my name, I tell her how happy I am to see her.
Finally she stops shaking and I let her go. Her eyes are moist with tears, I’m very happy to feel her joy. She’s a lot better than I could’ve imagined or dared to imagine. She feels like a little girl, maybe the girl she once was that needed attention and care which she never got. I take a breath and all I feel is the difference between the woman who raised me and the one sitting in front of me now.
Maybe it happens in most people’s lives when the moment comes that the parent needs care and attention similar to what the children once did. The cord is severed forever and I feel it’s a good thing. A very good thing.
Life’s very interesting. When time passes things look and feel differently, if we allow them, by existing in the present and forgiving or simply letting go of the past. If we could only “pan back” and remember this when we’re caught up in the heat or tension of the moment, we’d live a more relaxed life
A few days later we are walking barefoot in the Adriatic sea.
Breakwaters stretch along the coastline on the north side of the Rimini harbor, creating miles of calm and shallow waters for the pleasure of the millions of tourists that visit this beach resort every summer. It’s October now but the sun’s still warm and the tepid water kisses our calves as our feet push the wet sand on the bottom of the sea.
“So, how do we do this?” I ask the five experienced ladies digging clams out of the sand. A few toss back a challenging stare, trying to protect their stretch of water. “Look for two little holes next to each other and scoop, one inch deep.” The newest lady in the group instructs us with a friendly smile on her face. “Thank you”, I answer returning the smile. Annie, my wife, brought a ladle and a slotted spoon for the occasion and two plastic bags to carry the clams, which we fill with sea water. Annie takes the slotted spoon and starts searching for the little holes under the water. I offer my arm to my mother and we also start the search walking slowly in the transparent water.
It’s a slow, rhythmical sequence. We bend forward, dig and straighten up, then continue to walk looking for the next spot focusing on the sand in front of our feet. “Proviamo qui’” (let’s try here), I say. My mother bends to dig in the water pulls up the scoop and shakes it at water level while I pinch the handful of sand looking for clams. I can hear her breathing, I see her feet in the water and I feel how calm she is. “Niente” (nothing) she says with a smile on her face. Clams aren’t important. This moment is.
“Andiamo avanti” (let’s keep going), I suggest. We take a few steps until we spot the next pair of holes, and so on over and over again.
Time passes as gently as the light breeze moves the air around us.
We exchange a few words, we laugh, we dig again. Everything is calm.
After a while we meet up in the water a bit north from where we started with Annie, who’s also brimming with joy for the unusual experience.
“Ciao!” my sister has arrived and is waiving at us from the beach. My mother waives back and begins to walk toward the shore happy to see her.
Annie and I stand next to each other and look at the picture of this moment in front of our eyes for a while, until I say, “This, here, today, will stay with me as my best memory of my mother.”