We hold our support-group meetings in a room with Oriental carpets and deep green easy chairs. I arrive a few minutes early to set out chips, cookies, a foil tray full of fried-chicken dinners, and a liter bottle of Coke. Food is a big draw. One by one, they drift in.
She is pushed in through the door of the rural Mississippi clinic where I work. Behind her is movement, the rise and fall of slurred voices. Then a cluster of people crowd in behind her. But Lulu stands where she was pushed. She looks at me. I look at her, but not for long.
I’m forty-one, but my nine-year-old son persists in thinking I’m only forty. He’s at that phase when children become obsessed with their parents’ mortality, and for him this takes the guise of frequent (incorrect) recitations of my age, my birth date, and how old I’ll be on my next birthday.
Always before it had been of no consequence: someone else’s intensive care. It had meant nothing to her in her normal life that, all day and all night, through waxing and waning moons and in every season, a child balanced on the eggshell edge of life, and someone else simply waited.