Leah Browning

Part 3: A Little Luck

My friend Lori meets me for lunch. We sit outside on the patio and drink lemonade while we wait for our food.

Her children are in college; her oldest son is already in his first year of med school.

I waited until I was almost forty to have my children. They are both in elementary school. In fact, they need to be picked up at two o’clock, so the whole time I am at the restaurant with Lori, I am checking my watch.

I can’t help thinking that if I had just had my kids earlier, I could really focus on my mother right now. I could be at her house, taking care of her, instead of hiring a housekeeper to do it for me.

But she’s turned mean.

If I am completely honest, I have to admit that I am grateful for the housekeeper, with her pale pink smock and her seemingly endless well of patience.

In all likelihood, there are many years of this ahead of me: a downward slide of doctor’s appointments, assisted care, maybe a nursing home. After the kids go to bed, I sit next to my husband on the couch and Google “symptoms of Alzheimer’s” on the laptop while he watches reruns of Frasier. This is where we are right now.

Across the table, Lori is smiling. She is fifty years old, with a beautiful face. Good bone structure, as my mother would have said at one time.

Lori’s children have left home, and on nights and weekends, she has become increasingly involved in local theatre. She has been dating the film director for almost a year, and they are still infatuated with each other. We didn’t know each other as girls, but sometimes when she talks about him, I can imagine what she must have been like.

“What do you think we’ll be doing a year from now?” Lori asks.

It’s almost fall, and here and there, leaves are scattered on the sidewalk near our table. The sky is blue, though, and it’s not cold enough yet to need a sweater in the middle of the day. We are both healthy. Lori is in love. The children will stay occupied for almost another hour.

She stretches happily, looking up. “With a little luck,” she says, “we’ll be sitting here, having lunch.”

And maybe that is the answer, when so much is uncertain: to plan and prepare and fix things as much as possible, and then to sit outside in the sun and drink lemonade with Lori for as long as possible, until the hands of my watch shift ahead and point me in the next direction.

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