• Karen Sboto

Winter is Cold

Updated: May 5

That time when there were three of us left felt like the last supper. Soon we would be two, and Richard and I would be orphans. Is that the right word I wonder, when you are no longer of the age of Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables, the age when orphanhood is written like a jaunty adventure. My father’s death twelve years ago had splintered us. It took our passion and some of our ability to be around each other. Now, mom’s terminal diagnosis loomed like a boat that was soon docking, and our imminent departure in the voyage that is dying, inevitable.

It was winter, the Winnipeg type, where the light shines clearly in the short day, and the nights are never quite dark. We are sitting around the table that holds within its wooden surface our lives for the past forty years. It is round and expands to accommodate everyone. It could be a metaphor for our family. There are times when there are many of us and others like tonight when there are only us three sharing a meal, tonight its boards lean, unneeded, against the wall of the closet.

We are eating by the window, and I remember walking home in my youth and seeing people engaged in normal scenes, cooking, eating, or watching tv. I would be steaming home, cold, dressed like an astronaut, secretly jealous of them. My cozy apartment and singularity awaited me, like a judgment. Winter was a hard time to be single.

Now, it seems like winter is also a very hard time to become motherless. Maybe it would be easier in summer when you can get outside for a break, but then again, winter seems to suit the mood. It seems fitting to be sad at this time. Staying in bed is so much easier now, too. My mother and I take to lying in bed and doing crosswords, at times we read books from cover to cover in only one day. Before this time when there was still treatment, I watched the World Series and knitted scarves while she drifted in and out of the chemo exhaustion.

That supper though was the beginning of the end. It was one of the last times that she ate. We had a diagnosis, knew the future, and understood that it was going to be a long voyage. We spoke about kids, and the rights of women to wear burkas, we spoke of putting fresh tomatoes into our fried rice. We are soft speakers and discuss things civilly. We know our future is going to be filled with the cancer topic so only talk of the past. It is nice to be with my tribe even at this time.

There will be others heading home tonight, longing for arrival. Maybe they will look at our peaceful scene and wish that it was them in our place. Their steps are crunchy in the snow, the steam of their breath frozen in their scarves. They are on their own journey, dreaming of destination.

Karen Sboto

*Nonfiction Award

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