painting of flowers in vase with hearts on the table

waiting for the sunshine

painting of flowers in vase with hearts on the table

Waiting for the sunshine

You stood in the kitchen, waiting for the sunshine.

Oh, Mama. You waited.
You waited while the tickle in your throat rattled and rattled. Every phone call, eruptions of coughing. I listened, there was nothing else I could do—and sometimes I’d cut in, “hey, I’ll call you back, how about, when you’re feeling better.”

Now I see it through a backwards lens, time is funny like that, now I’m about how old YOU were then and my daughters are the ages I was then; I was your little last bird flown. Now I know the feeling of that emptiness, that new empty-nest, and how precious those calls become. Now I can feel, all these years later, how alone you must have sometimes felt, in your small kitchen, especially that last winter, coughing, insisting, talking, waiting, insisting that you were just fine.

You couldn’t really talk, but you didn’t want to hang up. It was a tickle, the end of a long lingering cold, a cold-on-top-of-a-cold, it was nothing.

Now I see you, frozen in the amber of that long-ago cold alone kitchen. Me not so far away in miles, but twenty-something me. So busy, busy, busy. A budding Bokonist, junior capitalist, believing that being an adult meant staying on the spinning hamster wheel. And also believing that you were going to be around for years and years, Mama. You were my mother. Life without you wasn’t comprehensible, and I didn’t imagine it, wouldn’t even try.

So I believed you, about the cough being nothing.

And still you coughed. I began to notice the unendingness of it. Worry crept in. I insisted you go to the doctor, but not soon enough. You locked my worries out and I let you. I locked them up, I guess. They were scary. Where did I learn to lock up so well? From you, Mama, you who waited in your small kitchen, vinyl-tiled, traces of avocado green barely visible in the corner, a little spot you missed when you carefully painted over with eggshell cream.

The wall phone is still avocado green in the mists of my memory. The round orb of the pendulum lamp casts a golden glow over the Formica table of the past, littered with bridge hands and newspapers and you, sitting there, smiling. So warm. I wish I could climb back into that kitchen, climb back to you.

I went to a movie with a friend the other day, an art film. Over ice cream afterwards he asked me, wonderingly, did I think the movie meant that all a man really wanted was a mother? I looked into his slate-gray eyes, and I thought of you, Mama.

No, I thought. It’s not just men who want that.

I thought of that horrible Psychology textbook photo, of the poor little monkey in the experiment who could choose, while starving, between a wire-framed “mother” equipped with milk and a nipple, or a fur-covered “mother” to cling to.

The little monkey always chose gnawing hunger and the fuzzy mama.

My friend’s sad eyes after the movie made me slide backwards through all the years. His eyes made me want to find you again, find you and fold you in my arms, to mother you, Mama. Because that is what you must’ve most wanted.

Because sometimes, life is scary, and you just want your mother.

But life is a funny circle, too. Scary and funny. In seeing how I failed you, I found you once again.

You’re here, waiting in the sunshine. Sometimes the darkness covers your shine, like a cloud. But you’re always there.


(Fastwrite from a prompt on regret).



Published by

Elaine Olund

I'm a writer, artist and designer who thinks way too much, and tries to see the beauty in the world.

3 thoughts on “waiting for the sunshine”

  1. Hugs!

    Such a beautiful write, as usual!
    I am glad my mother worried enough about her cough. I am glad we worried enough too. But of course we’re much older. My children, who are about the same age you were, told me, hopeful “But she seems fine, it can’t be that bad, right Mom?”

    What you may want to keep in mind though is that the fact she didn’t let you know, or she didn’t want to acknowledge the facts, were on her. It wasn’t your 20 yo self who was responsible for dragging her to see a doctor. We are all responsible first and foremost for our own well-being. No one can know but our selves how we feel deep down.

    So it wasn’t YOUR duty to get her to a doctor, but HERS. She chose not to want to face it. You cannot blame yourself. She had to learn to love herself enough to take care of herself. All you can do now is show your daughters that they are responsible for their own health. By taking care of your own.

    Sorry if I’ve not found the appropriate words to state my impression. I don’t want to appear sanctimonious. I’m just tired this morning… 😉

    Hugs again!

    1. Thanks, Dawn,
      I appreciate your loving kindness, reaching out, because if I had been still suffering & beating myself up, what you said is exactly what could have freed me to think about that in a new way. You are very wise, my friend.

      I don’t blame myself anymore–though I do regret not being more assertive, yes.

      You are so right—we absolutely cannot and should not attempt to control those we love, and we all are responsible for our decisions.

      But we can love our beloveds better when we are awake, and back then: I was not awake. I now know loving someone includes being direct about things that person is not dealing with (the big things, I mean, like imminent health crises).

      If you are direct it offers that person a way out of denial. They may not take it, but I’m damned if I won’t offer it, now that I know how.

      I think if I had then the tools I have now, I would have directly flat-out said, Mama, I am very concerned about your health. I think you need to go see a doctor, NOW. Do you want me to come with you?

      See, I never said that. I hinted a little, I pretended a lot, I checked out. Because I was afraid of confronting my own fear. It kept me from bravely loving. That’s the regret. Because while of course in the end her health was her responsibility, fear is a huge inhibitor, and I do believe we are all just walking each other home. In the end, I did my best and so did she. The love underneath it all is the sunshine that endures beyond our stumbles.

      The sunshine is forgiveness and radiant love. It’s enough, and everything, isn’t it?


      1. I love your reply!
        And agree wholeheartedly. The trick is to know how to state it.
        A sibling is still learning. But I was able to state MY truth and things are now clearer between us both. I appreciate the love. Not the commands.

        I’m glad you only have that regret, though… it was meant to be that way. For you, for her. You grew and that is now part of you.
        Much love to you

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