"Will you hold my hand?" she asked, lying on the CT table, completely covered with warm blankets so that only her face was exposed. I burrowed beneath the blankets covering her arms and found her hand, curling my fingers around hers and letting her squeeze.
"I don't think this will hurt," I offered soothingly, but frowned protectively at the men who were marking and measuring and making notes around her left breast. She squinted a few times and I'd remind the personnel to be gentle, hoping they didn't have me removed from the room.
We talked about zoos in an attempt at distraction, topical because Brother planned to take the girls to visit the animals today. There's a baby giraffe. The seal died. And that turtle I remember from my youth has a spot in the African exhibit.
"I think elephants get lonely," I said absently, keeping an eye on the trio working on the other side of Mom. "I heard of one that died and her mate was just miserable."
"Don't all animals get lonely if they lose someone?" she asked and I blinked down at her, this woman who's been married to my father for 43 of her 63 years. And was suddenly staggered at the thought of her losing her lifetime mate.
"Yeah," I replied quietly, trying for a soothing tone. "I suppose they do." After smoothing hair from her forehead, I leaned to place a kiss and stayed to nuzzle.
"Will you wash my hair?" she requested, frowning as she sifted her fingers through her short, colored locks. Dad, who looks remarkably like Santa with his white beard and fringe of hair around his bald head, doesn't want Mom to go grey. So she colors hers to a mix of browns and blondes.
I found myself dumping water over it, using one of those Tupperware pitchers with the little red tick marks to note volume when she couldn't lean far enough into the sink. I breathed in watermelon-scented shampoo she uses with the girls and scrubbed so I could smile at the piles of bubbles before rinsing them away.
"Better?" I asked, once we were finished and she'd piled the towel atop her head.
"Much," she replied and reached to embrace me. I let myself cling for a moment, smoothing her hair with stripey highlights and watermelon fragrance.
So whether it's fetching more water with piles of ice cubes or helping with showers or shaving her legs, I treasure this time with her. I realize it is fleeting - that I'm losing them both - but we laugh at rerunning sitcoms and frown over prices paid for abandoned storage lockers. We wait for stars who dance and take pills and find meals at the proper times. And, between meetings I take on the back patio, with birds singing and the trees rustling in the background, I look out into the day - whether sunny or gloomy - and am profoundly grateful I'm able to be here. Completing random, yet important, tasks.