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The Joy of Argument by Albert Navarra

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Why You Should Let Your Mother Die

by Valerie Cumming

Because she is sick.

Because she’s stopped taking the pills.

Because the pills didn’t really help that much anyway.

Because the things she forgets are already starting to outnumber the things she doesn’t: remember the day she forgot how a telephone works, left the waffle iron on all afternoon?

Because once, she stripped your toddler daughter down to her underpants and let her splash in a public fountain, and didn’t understand why that wasn’t okay.

        Because she still drives, keeps the directions to the store and to her children’s houses written on sticky notes in the glove compartment of her car. Because maybe, if you don’t let her die, she will accidentally kill someone else: someone younger, someone with their whole life still ahead of them.

Because once, she kissed a waiter, for no reason other than that he was young and handsome and agreed to a discount, and so now you can’t go to restaurants anymore.

Because she cuts her own hair to save money, the front bushy and the back nearly bald.

Because she wears the same outfit every day: a brown sweater vest, made worse by the fact that it belonged to you in junior high school.

Because you are embarrassed of her.

Because sometimes, looking in the mirror, you see her: the same sloping forehead, same softening chin.

Because sometimes you too forget things: the car keys, your cell phone, what to pick up at the store.

Because you do not want to become this.

Because you have a wife and children and a mortgage. Because softball games and family vacations and work deadlines and the car that needs fixed again, and this is just one more thing, one more thing that keeps on breaking down no matter how much time and energy and hope you pour into trying to repair it.

Because we didn’t agree to this.

Because, you say, it was not always this way. Because of those afternoons when you were little and she held your hand as you walked across the bridge together, tossed stones into the Ohio below, listened to the splash when they landed. Because of playgrounds and ice cream and bedtime stories and karaoke; because she used to throw the best damned block parties on the planet; because she once got a glamour shot taken that turned out so well that your father still keeps on his desk to this day.

Because that person is already gone.

Because, if you’re not careful, these new memories – sweater vest, waffle iron – will replace the old ones, until there is nothing of that time left.

Because you don’t want to forget.

Because you are already forgetting.

Because you, of all people, know this to be true: that when all is said and done, these things that are lost are the only things that ever mattered anyway. Because we are, all of us, more thoughts than body, more memories than blood.


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