Once upon a time I was a very brave woman.
“ A room for three” I said checking into the W one of the five star hotels in Atlanta. I ran through the lobby to get to the elevator and and went up. While unlocking the door and wheeling in my suitcase I called her.
“Where have you been? come now!” she said imperatively. I had been delayed by the Atlanta traffic getting to the hotel.
Immediately I took the elevator down to the parking lot and jumped into my car heading through the dense Atlanta traffic. As I weaved through the bumper to bumper traffic on the highway the shadows got longer and I forgot all about Asr.
The turn into the apartment complex was hidden by trees, I had no GPS but I had printed out the directions from mapquest.
I hesitated as to where to park? Should it be in a discreet corner or should it be closer to the stairs as her legs did not support her well. She was in her seventies and time and circumstances had marked her body but her mind was alert and looking for solutions always, which is why she had accepted my reckless plan.
I bounded up the stairs and waited at the turn in case he would come out and all our plans would fail. As I reached the door I noticed it to be ajar, I pushed the door open, she was sitting on a chair with her pocket book in her lap. she stood up shakily grasping the arm of the chair as she saw me. She pushed away my hand of assistance and headed for the door unsteadily.
“ Have you taken your medications with you?’ I asked, she turned back and hastily stuffed them in a plastic bag and headed for the door, no glance back. “Can we take some clothes” I asked. She stopped and glared at me and then kept walking albeit unsteadily. She was clutching on to the last remnants of her dignity. I realized it and said no more.
At the stairs it was obvious she would not be able to make it down without help though she seemed to be determined. Her body was tense, and anxiety covered her face like a mask. I had seen that expression as a child when she expected my father to arrive any moment.
She did not look at me. “where is your car” she asked though the car was parked right in front of her. It was much later that I realized the extent of her vision loss such that she could not see it.
I held her arm as her gait was unsteady and her hands reached out for objects as she could not see well. Yet she hurried to the car never looking back.
“Lets go !” she said, anxiety and tension spilling out of her and immersing me in it.
“But your things….” I asked. She brushed my incomplete sentence aside as I assisted her into the front seat. She looked around furtively as I finished buckling her seat belt. “ lets go…” she said never completing the unsaid part of the sentence “before he comes” that hung in the air like the sword of Damocles in Macbeth
I drove out of the parking lot, leaving behind all her memorabilia, her clothes, her autobiographical diary never thinking for one split second that they would be lost forever.
I merged onto the dense traffic of the eight lane freeway of Atlanta leading to the hotel. We were free ! However the exhilaration that should come with it was missing. The sense of danger, pursuit and darkness lingered over us like a gooey sticky gum, which all the logic in the world could not remove.
I parked at the W, and assisted her through the marbled floored lobby. Everything was decorated simply with a Zen theme of minimal black and mostly pearl white. Pure white orchids flowed out of the large tall simple marble jar at the center of the lobby.
The contrast with the apartment she had left was extreme. Through the half open door I had gotten a glimpse of newspapers, brown paper grocery bags and magazines strewn on the floor which was invisible. Every counter in the kitchen was covered with bottles, dirty plates, used glasses and food coated spoons. Empty jars stood by, waiting to be tossed or recycled, chairs covered with grocery bags and sofas with unopened packages from the stores. Amazon was not yet in vogue.
The musty odor of old urine emanated from the fabric of the chair on which she sat.
The Hotel room was such a contrast that it was surreal. The sitting area had a sofa covered with a pale white velvety fabric, the window drapes were floor length. The sheer fabric inviting the rays of the sun to enter the room tempered by the mildly tinted glass which allowed light but not heat.
The room was cool while the heat of the late evening southern sun baked everything outside. Condensation clouds twirled up from the pavement and were swallowed by the heat.
“Would you like to rest ? “ I asked
She was tense, a little bit reserved, and mildly resentful towards me. I felt I was a stepping stone, a means but not the end result of what she sought.
She looked around and her gaze stopped at the entrance of the next room. The two beds were inviting her to rest and peace with their quiet coloring of soft white and a splatter of black marble.
Orchids stood tall on the table in the living room unbending and fragrant in their simplicity, knowing their life was short lived in the vase, yet exuberantly being who they were with a dignified delicacy.
Indecision flickered on her face and her phone rang. I saw his name …. And my heart sank.
She will surely succumb again to the emotional blackmail. My phone rang. I walked into the bedroom to answer it. “ I am on my way from the Atlanta airport” It was my brother. I sighed with relief, at last help was coming. I had borne this extreme tension alone for a very long time.
“ I could hear her voice soothing the person at the other end…….. “ No, I am just here for the weekend, don’t worry……… “ she said and then she saw me enter the living room and she said “ I will call you tomorrow and let you know” and hung up.
The bell chimed at the door of the room. She looked at me with great trepidation and then at the door…… we both were nonplussed, how could he find this place so fast. My brain sped at the speed of the Shinkansen the fastest train in Japan, but could not come up with a solution. I stood rooted in indecision and the doorbell chimed again. I approached the door ready to do battle. “ Who is it?” I asked,
“ It’s me, T” said the male voice at the other side of the door.
I opened the door and I wanted to embrace him with relief but he brushed me aside and went straight to her. ‘Salam o alaikum” he said, her face brightened and she hugged him “ What are you doing here ?” she asked, her voice gentle, sweet, affectionate, like the mother I remembered, something I would have loved to hear from her for me, but this was not a time for expecting, it was a time for giving. We were in the fight, flight mode and there was no room for sentimentality.
“ I am here to see you.” He smiled his Professorial smile as the lamp light behind him highlighted the white threads in his hair. His face transformed from the worried anxious look at the door, of a child who is on the brink of losing his mother to the professorial gentleness of a healer who has reassured thousands of patients dying of an incurable disease. He sat down next to her, not as a son, but as a Doctor, a healer and a therapist. Someone who would take her to the other side of the dark night of the soul and promised to land her in light. She saw that in his expression and smiled.
I watched in awe ….. it is true what Allah says in the Quran to the sons and I paraphrase: that when you turn 40 you must take care of your mother as she bore you in pain…….
We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents: His mother carries him in her womb with hardship, and gives birth to him in pain. Thirty months is the period of her carrying and weaning him. When he attains to manhood and the age of forty, he says: “O Lord, guide me to thank You for the favours You have bestowed on me and my parents, and to do things good as may please You, and give me a righteous off-spring. I turn to You in penitence and submit.” Quran 46:15
Something that is not in my Qadr.
The bond of a son and his mother can never be violated as I was soon to find out because the one she was fleeing was also her son……
So much more was to come, I was unaware of how high a cliff I had dived off from, nor of the rocks on the way and in the depth of the water that received me. I had no inkling that I would in the process destroy all those that I loved, and those that had loved me, and make lifetime enemies. Even then I would never gain the blessings of the woman I was attempting to save from sure blindness and from slipping into the dementia of neglect.
As mother and son spoke softly with each other I realized the depth of her distress and despair at the possibility of going blind if untreated. It was such that it would impel her to abandon the one son who stood in her path of independence from blindness, not because he wouldn’t but because he couldn’t……and embrace the one who would facilitate her flight to Light.
I was just a bystander, a peon, a means of getting her too where she needed to be. In the final analysis: the reason for her Flight to freedom as planned and executed by me was to get her somewhere where she could get her sight back and be able to be independent and see the glory of the world around her. What I meant to her or her attitude towards me, I set aside for a more important goal……
I wanted to earn Jannah and I knew at that moment that it was not going to be easy…..