The Seals

Lydia Davis

I could share her when she was alive. When she was alive, her presence was endless, time with her was endless, time was endless. Our mother was very old already, and when we children stopped to think about how long we might live, we thought we would live to be just as old. Then, suddenly, there was that strange problem with her vision, which turned out to be a problem not with her vision but in her brain, and then, without warning, the bleeding and the coma, and the doctors announcing that she did not have long to live.

Once she was gone, every memory was suddenly precious, even the bad ones, even the times I was irritated with her, or she was irritated with me. Then it seemed a luxury to be irritated.

I did not want to share her, I did not want to hear a stranger say something about her, a minister in front of the congregation, or a friend of hers who would see her in a different way. To stay with her, in my mind, to remain with her, was not easy, since it was all in my mind, since she wasn’t really there, and for that, it had to be just the two of us, no one else. There would have been strangers at the funeral, people she knew but I didn’t know, or people I knew but didn’t like, people who had cared about her or had not cared about her but thought they should attend the funeral. But now I’m sorry, or rather, I’m sorry I couldn’t have done both—gone to the funeral and also stayed home to be with our mother and nurse my own grief and my own memories.

Suddenly, after she was gone, things of hers became more valuable to me than they had been before—her letters, of course, though there weren’t many of them, but also things she had left behind in my house after her last visit, like her jacket, a dark blue windbreaker with some logo on it. And a detective novel I tried to read and couldn’t. A tub of frozen clams in the freezer, and a jar of tartar sauce, marked down, in the door of the fridge.

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