Listening


︎︎︎ Roland Mayer

︎ June 15, 2021


My mother sits up on the bed leaning
against the headboard. Dressed
in a skirt and sweater,
her legs are crossed at the ankles.
The ash tray is half full on the side table
next to several books. One arm
around her waist, she looks at me.
There is a quiet silence, loud because it
is so sudden.
She has been talking to
me for the last 40 minutes.
What was it this time? Oh yes.
Her college years. The accomplishments, the leadership
positions in various organizations. The newspaper, the yearbook, the sorority,
the music performances.
I had drifted there for a moment,
wondering where my friends were. I had come
down the stairs
intending to meet them. Where were they playing?

More pressing now, is that,
by the expression on her face, I know
she expects me to say something.

I think; while I look at her. This is important.
But I’m not sure what will fill the gap in the way she needs it.
So I nod.
So does she.
That is enough.


Since her hospitalizations over the last
few years and the psychotropic cocktails
she has been on, things are better.
But not the same. These things
don’t entirely let go.


And so we have come to do this often.
She smokes on the bed. Long exhalations
breaking up the narrative. Hours and days on her own
as a single child. Her mother and step-father worked together
at the insurance office, then took off to party in the evening.
My mother had an account at the diner down the street
from their apartment where she often had dinner as an adolescent.

There is so much in her life that has driven her. She was
a competent and successful young woman. These are things
she wants me to know; her eldest of four sons.
Mostly, I listen.
Sometimes I ask a question
for clarification. I’m 12. Some of this I don’t really understand.
But I do know that the most important
thing I can do for her is to sit on the bed and listen.
























































Roland Mayer
has been a teacher and administrator in Southern Oregon and Western Washington public schools. He lives in Snohomish County in Washington. He reads and writes, and fiddles with the guitar.