The Other Side

I sit beside her watching while
she pushes puréed peas and meatloaf around the green plastic tray,
stirring in pudding and some watery mashed potatoes.
It hurts to see this, her not feeding herself,
playing with her food the way she always scolded me about.
“Mama, do you need help with eating?” I ask.
She turns that glassy gaze to me, a look that’s shown more and more.
There’s no joking, no talk about her childhood, or mine anymore.
There’s barely recognition nowadays.
Returning her attention to lunch, she resumes prodding the substances that won’t choke her.
“Can I help you?” I ask, picking up another spoon.
Again she stares at me.
“I want to go to the other side,” she whispers.
I look from the eating area, past the reception desk,
to the wall of floor to ceiling glass windows fronting the nursing home,
overlooking the perfect green lawn.
I can see the wild chickens strutting around, pecking in the grass.
She loves to watch birds, always has for as far back as I remember.
“Okay,” I say, standing and taking hold of the wheelchair.
We weave our way through the other elderly residents,
eating, dozing.
“Here we are,” I say, “with the beautiful chickens.
My mom turns her neck to see me, then says, “I want to go to the other side.”
“We’re on the other side,” I say. “See the chickens?”
“I want to go to the other side,” she says again.
“You want to try eating again?” I ask.
She gives me the glazed stare, not seeing me.
I push her back, she picks up the spoon, resumes moving her food around.
Then, very carefully placing the spoon on the plate, she says again to no one,
“I want to go to the other side.”

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