64, 54, 34

My mom had a coloring book before coloring books for adults were cool.

I remember visiting a family friend, her kids and my brother running in the sprinkler outside and hollering and hooting and what I wanted to do, instead, was sit and watch my mother at their kitchen table carefully coloring a picture of Snow White. She was probably younger then than I am now, her slim fingers selecting pristine crayons from a well-kept box of 64. She had her own coloring book, and her own crayons, because even though I was an observant child, I was still a child and clumsy and like to lose or break or color my favorite colors down to flat nothings.

And besides, she frequently offered me dollars to select coloring books of my own when we went to the grocery store. It’s probably why I can’t resist picking them up for my girls.

I can still see her hands, their strong, brightly painted nails and the rings she liked to wear featuring her favorite gemstone: amethysts. I decided that it was my favorite, too, lamenting that we didn’t share a birth month, as though only those born in the bitter cold of an Ohio February could appreciate that glittering, purple beauty. But I was born in October to my 20-year-old mother, giving her, according to members of my family, something to build her life around. She had always wanted children and my brother and I have probably broken her heart about a thousand times, so it’s only fair that she’s breaking mine now.

She’s in the hospital and she’s not wearing any rings. She showed me her toenails, though, painted purple with sparkles. She felt well enough to paint them, a few weeks ago. But not today. Not now.

I am thinking of the last time that I saw her well and whole, when my mother held my youngest in her arms and her grin was so wide, such a perfect expression of delight, that she’s wearing it in every photograph from that visit. We went to the pool, the zoo, she read the girls a story in the little toddler bed, everyone in pajamas with clean hair and fresh faces.

She’s 54.

She’s very sick.

She might not get better.

I’m 34.

And I’m not ready.

She isn’t, either, and we’re still coming up short on answers and appropriate sentiments. She’s home with my auntie, now, but still so far from me. I am telling myself, regarding distance, not for long.

I am telling myself, regarding time, for a lot, lot longer.

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