Nothing in life prepares you for this. She asks for help, to get out of her bed. The mattress is now too high, inconvenient, an obstacle; the bones in her back are crumbling. Pain shoots upwards; nerves are pinched. You see this on her face. You pretend not to take too much notice that she has aged, greatly. (Slow, unsteady movements, back bent over, thinning gray hair, dark spots on her lined skin.) She grips onto your arm with her small hand, leaning her body into yours, as you both walk across the hall and onto the tile and bright light of the bathroom. She cannot sit on the toilet seat without discomfort, effort, trouble. You partially close the bathroom door. In that instant, you see her sigh, not of relief, but of exhaustion. You smile at her. It is 3:35 a.m. "Call me, when you're done," you say, waiting in the hall.
Later that morning, she tells you the injections of cement into the lower blades of her back does no good. "No help," she says. You suggest alternatives, like acupuncture. "I'm so tired," she replies, with a stern resignation. "Sick and tired." And you know this woman is looking at you, with a truth. This woman who sees a light fading. This woman who is your mother.