Darlene sits in the kitchen wide-eyed and happy as I feed her. I spoon the mashed carrots into her mouth and she takes them. Occasionally, I make a little airplane flight path with the spoon and a vroom sound she likes. She isn’t speaking in complete sentences yet, but that will come.
It always does.
“Good job, Darlene,” I say and she smiles. I’ve read that it’s best to address her with the given name instead of a nickname or pet name to foster the development of autonomy. I treat her like an independent adult, even though she’s not.
When we’re done with the meal, she sits in the den and does puzzles on a screen while I iron. We go on like this for an hour until she gets irritable. She starts with a grunt and then it turns to a whimper. I put up the ironing board and change her. She’s tired and it’s time for a nap.
While she’s asleep, I think about the future, and what a blessing she is. When she wakes, I take her to the rope swing underneath an old white oak. She glides back and forth and her smile tightens. She looks at the fence with focus, as the swing comes to a rest.
“That needs mending,” she says, motioning to a fallen cross board. My heart leaps.
I look at her and she looks back at me.
Stay here. I think. I want to stop time.
“Hey Momma,” I say.
“The swing feels lower this time,” she says.
“The rope is old and sagging. I’ll get it replaced,” I say.
I get down on a knee so that I’m just below eye-level with her. She places a hand to my face, and I feel my eyes moisten.
These fleeting moments.
“I miss you, Momma.”
“I’m right here, Sally girl,” she says, pointing to her chest.
“I know,” I say. I turn my face to hide the tears. When I look back to her, I see she’s staring into the field beyond the fence. I follow her gaze to a cow that has ventured close. My mother is smiling.
“Mooooo,” she says.
Jay Tyler is an attorney in central Virginia. He’s been writing for over ten years, and his fiction has appeared in Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature and Electric Spec.