My mother hates it when I write about her.
Although, knowing her, she would object to my use of the word “hate.” When we were children, she wouldn’t let us use it.
“You might not like something that your sister is doing,” she’d say, “but you do not hate her.”
So let me start again: My mother does not like it when I write about her.
My mother has never asked me not to write about her, but when I show her a piece in which she figures prominently, she is always quiet afterward.
“It’s good,” she says, but after that there is nothing.
“What?” I ask, and she’ll look at the page, scanning it for something other than what she wants to say, and then her eyes will fill with tears, the rims like sinks that never completely drain.
“You make me sound so weak,” she says, like she always says, and then I say nothing. Because what can I say that won’t hurt her, and what can I say that won’t be a lie?
Here is the truth: my mother is weak. She has had sixteen surgeries in her lifetime. Physically she is held together by rods and screws, her bones overcompensating in equal and opposite measure so that each year there is always another surgery, always another revision. My mother’s body is a version of her body the doctors have edited to within an inch of its life, snapping joints and drilling holes until it seems strong.
“There,” I imagine them saying after eight hours reinforcing her spine, her hips, her shoulders too. “That should do it.”
But then we are back in a year—two if we are lucky—taking another stab at it. They fine-tune the bones in her spine. They replace the replacements in her joints.
Continue reading in the Spring 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner.