“So they gave me the position!” I told my mother over dinner early that January.  “I am so psyched!”

“Congratulations,” my mother responded, reaching for the bowl of salad and serving herself a portion.  “It’s kind of funny to think of you getting a job based on sewing and cooking, though.  I’ll freely admit I wasn’t a great teacher in either department.”  She had mastered the art of eating at the table by carefully snaking the long tubing attached to her oxygen machine just so and sitting at the end of the table.  I had thought the nasal cannula would be bothersome, especially while eating, but she didn’t even really seem to notice it any more.

“What’s amazing is the sewing was indeed the dealbreaker.  That shirt I made clinched the deal.”

I’d heard about the long term substitute position at my old middle school through the grapevine just before Winter Break.  I’d expressed an interest in it, calling in any favors from people who had been pleased with my teaching at the school.  The position was for a Life Skills classroom, which was what Home Economics had been called when I had attended the school.  I interviewed for the job in the same classroom where I’d taken the class myself.  I immediately liked the woman whom I’d be replacing, Linda; she was going to get new corneas since her own were shot.  The job was for a six week span.  I would start with sewing, which was already in progress, and then in a few weeks progress to cooking.  But in order to get the position I’d have to know how to sew, on a machine; something I hadn’t done literally since the last time I’d stood in this room.  I took home a portable sewing machine, the instruction book, and a sweatshirt pattern.  By the time school was back in, I brought in my newly sewn shirt and landed the job.

“Well it’s great that you’ll be working so close to home,” my mother continued, taking a bite of the pasta I’d cooked for her, Zach and I to eat.  He was messily trying to stab the penne shaped noodles with the fat toddler fork.  The words hung in the air, full of unsaid implications.  I glanced down to her hand, where the port for her IV still was, waiting for any necessary intravenous meds to be placed inside.

“It is.  And it’s going to be so amazing working with some of my former teachers.  Do you know Mr. Winfield will be just across the hall from me?  And my old band teacher too.  Here’s the best part though; the way the schedule works, my preparation period and my lunch are all bunched together, so I have an hour and ten minutes free in the middle of the day.  So I can come home for lunch sometimes.  Zach, honey, let’s try to get the noodles in your mouth instead of on the floor, OK?”

“I’m happy that you’ll finally be able to know where you’ll be every day.  I know that you hate that part of substituting.”

“That, and waiting for the phone to ring at five in the morning.  I just lay there, awake, knowing it is going to happen any second, but it still makes me jump when it does.”

My mother took a sip of her water and nodded.  “Me, too,” she laughed, lightly.

“I was thinking,” I continued, “Now that I have this regular gig, that we should set up a schedule of visitors for you during the daytime, while I’m gone.”

A few months ago, my mother would have immediately started her protest.  But instead, she surprised me by saying, “Actually, I was just talking with the counselor about that today while you were out.  She suggested pretty much the same thing.”

“Really?”  I asked, grateful for the fight that I now was not going to have.  “What were you thinking?”

“Well,” my mother answered, “I think that I’m good for a few hours in the morning after you leave since I sleep until about 9 or so anyway.  Plus I don’t want to ask people to come too early.  I wonder if we could ask a few people to come around 10 or so every day.”

“That sounds good.  I could leave some water out for you so you wouldn’t have to go all the way in the kitchen, and maybe some snacks, and then whoever comes could make lunch/brunch, whatever.”

“But I don’t want anyone to have to take this all on themselves.”

“No, of course not, Mom.  Do you know how many people have asked how they can help?  People who are home at least one day during the week?  I’ll call three or four, and my sister can take the other day or two.  We’ll set up a schedule.  It’ll be all spread out, and won’t be too much for any one person.  What do you think?”

She set down her fork.  “I like it.” she said.  “I really do. ”

And so just like that, I set up a schedule of daytime caregivers for my mother so I could continue my work towards my career goals while my mother was sick.  I would come home every day after picking up Zach from daycare, around 4.    Just in case anything were to go wrong, I would be five minutes away at the closest school possible for me to be working at.

I felt like somehow, this could work.  Sitting there that night, around the dinner table, it almost seemed possible.


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