Rena, 10/26

“You are an amazing mother,” my grandmother, Rena says. “Your girls are just so lucky to have you.”

I look at the girls, sitting comatose on the couch watching television, more cheerios on the floor than in their mouths, while I hold the phone to my ear.

“Well, I begin, “it’s actually been kind of hard lately…” my voice trails off as I remember that it’s better not to tell her the hard things any more. I change approaches. “Thank you. I’m lucky to have them, too.” Rena continues: “I mean, is there anything you don’t do? Writing, cooking, and now working, too!” I survey the scene. I have not written anything in two months. Email alerts for work keep popping up on the open iPad, and I make a mental note to turn them off. I know the counter is under here, somewhere, beneath the outfit I brought up for Margaret, which she rejected because the dress wasn’t twirly enough. Beneath a few pieces of construction paper, haphazardly colored with a few strokes before they were abandoned for the tub of beads, balancing precariously on the edge of the counter. Beneath Julia’s “take home” folder, poetry binder, and a bag of potatoes from our CSA.

“I wish I could see you,” Rena tells me. I feel myself soften, feeling guilty for bristling at her compliments, guilty for waiting a week between phone calls this time.

“Me, too,” I reply. “I miss you.”