The waitress walked towards us, no eye contact. She was having a rough day. Seated at the awkward table beside the serving counter, mum and I sat down and we were handed a thick bible of a menu. We both just looked at the specials, easier and less words. Quickly choosing some starchy dish we placed the menus down and sipped the water that had just splashed out of the iced jug from the distracted waitress.
Mum has a belief that she has nothing worth saying so conversation stops and starts with her. As her son, I have the gene that seems to have carried this trait. I fight it everyday. We all have something worth saying, especially to those who love us.
We sat in the diner on the Upper East Side, mother and son together on the other side of the world in NYC. She is visiting from her little island in the South Pacific. She never would have dreamed to come here to see me. But she was given the chance.
On Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend at the time surprised me by saying he would get flights for my mum and her partner so a little piece of Australia could come to me. I burst into tears when he told me in the street down in the East Village, it was incredibly sweet and generous. My mum could finally meet the man I loved and his kids. The reason I left my home in Australia for. And as a couple, slowly looking at forming a family unit.
Yet a few short months later he ended it suddenly. In my shock and grief the last thing I wanted was to have her come here, and see the huge hole that was now NYC to me. I couldn’t say no, of course they should come. That whole, “let’s make it an adventure that we originally didn’t foresee” but in the end she was coming for a funeral of the life I had. Though she was the sort of guest who didn’t know those who are no longer in my life. One who was attending the funeral, as a support.
So as we sit in this diner, our starch arrives, the weight of the plate thumped on the table . And she has seen me the last week and a half in a fog. She also sees me find the energy to look past the constant stab of a reminder, that instead of showing her Brooklyn Bridge, I should have been showing her how much of a cheeky and funny pair the kids are. How happy I was in the world beside the cheeky and warm man I stood beside. I look at my mum and know she she gets it. She is having a ball in NYC and sees her son being taken away in the sorrow.
“I’m sorry mum for not being so present, I want to be and I have so much guilt that I am not. I only have a few days to share with you here before you are leaving”
“Mate, don’t ever feel that way, it makes sense and I am glad to be here for you, even if no words make it better. Don’t ever feel that guilt. “
I write the above as to how I feel we both wanted to say to the other. It came out and stabs and starts, but that was the general vibe. And my eyes welled with tears. We have gone through a lot together.
I read her an email from one of my cousins who recently wanted to reach out for forgiveness. She said sorry for her part in the large pool of hurt that the religious world we came from held down on us, so many years ago. I can see that meant a lot to her too. And she was taken back to those years ago and went absent herself, as she repeats over and over her regret at the way things happened with her and my family. When it was her time for fog.
We eat our dinner, we talk about our worlds and sit up to focus more on our moment. We get less and less of them and I refused to be taken away by the fog.
The check comes, when mum is in the bathroom I do the sneaky pay the check. Getting mum dinner just always feels good.
We wave back at the waitress to say thanks as we leave, she didn’t look up.
We sit on a brick garden wall, on a street corner eating an ice cream. And take a photo. Enjoy the moment.