she’s aged. her body doesn’t work like it used to. it doesn’t flow freely, moving gracefully across the landing. rather, her steps are small, calculated, and painful. yet, she is determined to maintain her independence. holding on to this and that as she makes her way from one room to the next. washing stray dishes. pouring coffee into a small cup. and oh so carefully balancing herself, and her drink, as she makes her way to her favorite chair. where she places headphones haphazardly on her crown, messing up her grandma gray hair, in order to hear the voices on the tv.
when she lies in bed. her mind meanders to the past. remembering things she thought she had forgotten. faces flash before her eyes, and she wonders where they are. what they’ve been doing. she reflects. thinks of herself, as a young girl. a girl who would run down the hills of los angeles. and back up again. she remembers the young woman she used to be. a beauty, admired. she gently cries. overwhelmed with the memories of her past. memories that flood her aging mind.
One afternoon, not long after Rudy and I first met, we drove out to Los Angeles, to an old-fashioned house complete with antique furniture, old-time dishware, and original wooden floors. To the house where my mom was living, where she was caring for her aunt. Rudy remembers being very nervous about meeting my sweet mom for the first time, not sure what to expect. Not sure how his broken English would sound. After introductions, and an offering of cookies and coffee, my mom carefully began asking Rudy questions. Questions about his life growing up in Honduras and about why he came to the United States, by himself, at the tender age of nineteen. Rudy seemed to have forgotten that his speech sounded very foreign, as both he and my mom laughed throughout their gleeful conversation.
I watched with interest as my mom would look Rudy in the eye and ask a nonthreatening question, naturally providing a level of comfort for Rudy, who not too long before had been wringing his hands, feeling anxious. Rather, he felt comfortable, knowing my mom truly was interested in what he had to say, resulting in his talking much more than he expected. His fear had disappeared, replaced by animated stories. Simple everyday, growing-up stories. Question after question, and not once did Rudy feel that my mom was being nosy or overbearing. Like the way any mom might be when questioning the boy who is dating her daughter. She was simply interested in what he had to share.
I looked at my mom. Stared at her, a gentle smile on my face. It was then I realized that that’s how I am with people. I ask questions because I care, and I listen because I’m interested in what they have to say. The best thing I learned from my mom that day was how easy it is to communicate with others. To feel engaged, without being overbearing. I learned that if you show even a bit of interest in someone, look them in the eyes, truly listen to their words, and ask questions to allow them to expand on their previous response(s), people will talk.
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