For a long time, I owned a pair of grey socks which had belonged to my mother, if one can claim ownership of something taken without consent. My father slid them from her feet as she lay on her deathbed, easing them gently over gnarled toes. He told me about it later, since I had gone to my cousin’s house hours before she passed and arrived back at home just as they loaded her into the ambulance to take her to the mortuary. He pressed the laundried little bundle into my hand when I left for Kansas City after her funeral. I wore them until they disintegrated.
When I visited my sister at Christmas, I discovered that the only shoes which I had brought with me did not fit very well. My awkward walking demands a stable perch from which to stride. My sister asked what size I wore and when I told her, suggested thicker socks since none of her shoes would fit me. She left a pile on my bed while I was in the shower. I touched the soft wool and picked the thickest. On my last day, she told me to keep them.
I’m wearing them right now. I stayed home from work with a low-grade fever, mostly to protect my co-workers just as the experts tell us we should do. In normal times, I would ignore this dictate; but the times stopped being normal weeks ago. Cities and counties hunker down, crouched on the edge of their surrounding mountains and shores. Children wander into living rooms strewn with books, and toys, and forgotten backpacks filled with homework that will never be graded. A nation shivers while its people try to fashion life without the warm embrace of friends to comfort us.
My feet sit beneath my desk, cradled in the turquoise wool embodiment of my sister’s concern for my security. Outside the transom, I see a groundsman slowly crossing the meadow with a weedeater, skimming the early growth of grass beside the creek. The branches of the willow sway in a soft breeze, the budding tender shoots drifting through the air.
While I wait for my co-workers to send work for my remote attention, I think about my mother. She always wore socks to bed, feeling the cold on her arthritic feet. I never understood the endurance of the relate between my mother and father. His violence, his betrayal, his failings disqualified him from her fidelity and yet she never withdrew it. Something persisted between them. I have no doubt that he slid those socks from her cold feet with the greatest of tenderness, with reluctance, perhaps even with a tinge of regret. I understand why he gave them to me. He had nothing else to offer as testimony to his eternal and unlamented love for the woman who gave me life.
It’s the eighteenth day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Taken from Jackson Slough on Andrus Island, en route to work on 03/17/2020. My mother would have loved this place; and her feet would have been warm at night here.