Today’s writing assignment was to start with the words ‘I remember’ and write about a female relative.
I remember my mother gently pushing me down onto the pillow. Chatter chatter went my little girl mouth and I couldn’t stop it. I pushed back with my shoulders and my tiny mighty will and she pushed all the more firmly with her mighty mother’s will, aiming my head for the pillow.
I argued with her once. Well, far more than once to be sure, but there was one I remember like it was crystal. She wanted me to do something. I didn’t want to. Simple as that. The details never mattered. Hands on hips, I defied her with all my mighty tiny might. A small tree imagining itself to be an oak shaking her fist at the wind. You will not make me bend!
‘You are stubborn and willful,’ she said, her voice even but angry, ‘but where do you think you got strong will?’ There was a pause. Her question hung in the air as clear as a bell’s note. I flushed hot childish teenage temper and I, in a moment I will regret for the whole of my life, reached up with my hand and smacked her full on the mouth. With not so much as a heartbeat space, she smacked me back. I cried. She did not. At least not then. It was, to my memory, the last time she ever struck me. But I never, ever came even close to striking her again.
She was right. I may have a will of iron but hers was stainless steel. Hard but beautiful. Reflecting. Admirable. Unbreakable.
When she first got sick, and I mean the part where she really started getting sick, she seemed to rail against it with that stainless steel will. Willing herself to breath. Willing herself to live. When she was attached to all manner of devices in the hospital, the doctor said most people wouldn’t have been able to keep living a functional life with so much CO2 in their blood. ‘She must have quite a strong will,’ he said. She struggled and fought defiantly against the mask while we talked calmly beside her. He had no idea.
She pushed me down to the pillow, to the sleep and rest every mother knows their child needs and I, with my tiny mighty will, fought it with all I had. But she won that little skirmish. In my defense, I was exhausted. But I was asleep before my head touched the cool fabric waiting beneath it.
I often wonder what happens to our will, be they iron or stainless steel, when we sleep.