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Lost and Found

January 10, 2012

The Honda was parked on the street in front of my house as if the person driving had discovered a wasp in her blouse or flames leaping from beneath the hood. Left at a crazy lurch some ten feet from the curb, the car’s position in the road was causing traffic to stop and veer around it. “What?” my mother said staring at car where I steadied her by the elbow.  She was 86 then.

“It looks like a crazy person parked the car,” I said, stating the obvious.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Mom said a bit flirtatiously.  She opened the door, lowered herself behind the wheel, and started the engine.

That was 8 years ago. Now I sit by her bed in her hospital room which she insists is a store where she is “waiting to leave for the western territories.”  I’m here because she called me earlier this evening “in big trouble.”  She’s loopy on medications and her only reality is her sudden panic. Can’t I “please, please come get her and take her home?” But what home is she speaking of?  Her apartment in assisted living? The last home in which she was a wife? Or the farm where she was born under a huge Midwestern sky?

We have a secret word, my mother and I, for how we are going to communicate, if it is possible, after she dies.  Whenever I see or hear this word I’ll know she is nearby—affirming the continuity of her love–or perhaps it will only a be confirmation of my loss, like touching a bruise.

“What’s the word, Mom?”  I ask to distract her.

“Oh I know,” she says with childish glee. “Book!” (close.) “Potato!” (closer.) I can see instantly how her brain has filed the word both by meaning and first letter. I tell her the correct answer and she grimaces with the satisfaction of hearing the answer to a riddle and the aw-shucks of having just missed it. We are laughing now and she is not lost any more. In lieu of knowing which home she longs for, I’ve brought her home to me.

Write about a time in which you or a character have had to rescue someone lost– A parent, a child, a pet, a spouse, a friend—someone who needs to feel safe again. Write two pages. Go.

Improve it: Now go back through and ask yourself where you have been disingenuous—taken the easy way out—written what came glibly and easily. Feel into your scenario. Go into your body for memory. Dig deeper. Write that.

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