After high school, my choice was train to be teacher
or nurse. I hated hospitals. I taught. Now,
with notebook in hand, I stand in a sterile gym
designed for training patients to walk again.
I make notes as my mother follows directions, first
rolling upright on a flat mattress, then using a cane
to stand. I watch her struggle across the floor
and I try to slide a chair toward her when she reaches
a small table, but the therapist shakes her head at me
even as my mother bats away my hand.
My mom seats herself at the table where she labors
at stacking plastic rings of various sizes
onto a tapered cone. Her hand trembles, her face
is stiff with concentration. At the therapist’s
command, my mother (who was never
compliant in ways I wanted her to be),
makes her way to a counter with a metal sink
where she’s instructed to wash dishes,
dry them, then place them into a cabinet.
Small motor, large motor, balance—
my mom is back in school. And I’m learning
how to dispense meds, how to help her work
lax muscles. She’s so brave, the therapist says
as she leads her student toward a short flight
of railed steps. I watch my mother climb.