out treatment, the doctors said nine months, the same amount of timeit took to get born. Except for the bathrobe, she didn’t look like anyonewho was dying. Most days, she didn’t need any medication at all. I wasthe one who took the Klonopin. With the Oxy, I was careful. Once aweek and only half a pill. I still had responsibilities.
“Any word back from the agency?” she asked.
“Nothing this week but data entry and accounting.”
“Accounting. That’s something you can learn. You were always good
at math. People need accountants these days.” All over the news, reces-
sion woes reverberated across stories of Ponzi schemes and foreclosures,
astonished people gaping as their good fortune vanished.
“I already have a career, Mom.” I pulled out dishes and silverware.
“There’s always time for a change.” Her cheerfulness was grating.
“I like my career.”
“I know, honey.” She raised an arm to give my shoulders a squeeze.
I could feel her frailness through the reassurance of the embrace. “And
I’m sure you’re a good teacher. Maybe you could teach math.”
“Sure.” I ripped open a bag of salad mix.
“I want you to stay busy while you’re here, you know. Find thingsto do. You shouldn’t set aside your whole life just for me. I don’t needthat.” To prove her point, she set a heaping casserole dish on the trivet.“Chicken and green beans. Grandma’s recipe. You know this one, right?”“Yeah, I think I got that one down.” Mostly, it came back to thecanned soup.
“Well, I’m sure you’ve got your own recipes now.”
She took my hand to say grace, thanking the Lord for his bounty on
my behalf. She peered at me a moment longer after she let go, studying
me from over the top of her reading glasses. The frames matched her
purplish-red hair. Gray tendrils escaped the loose bun and curled out
around the sharp angles of her face.
“God’s got a purpose for you, Laura,” she said. “Don’t you worry.
We’re not all meant to be artists, but he’ll use you like he uses all of us.
To God be the glory.”
She served a spoonful of casserole onto my plate and then her own.
“After I’m gone, you can sell the house. Do something smart with the
money. Don’t blow it on a vacation. Find something good and invest in
That sounded more like my practical mother. Growing up, we had al-
ways attended church, but primarily for the social functions. Luncheons