Private Performance

My mother is near the end of her life. She has been in hospice for 8 months and I have watched her slipping away. She doesn’t understand much of what I say anymore and I have trouble deciphering her breathless whispers. In fact, she usually doesn’t even open her eyes when I visit.

One recent visit was different. I finished dressing for the St. John’s Parade early and, as Groovy the Clown, visited her at the adult care home where she lives near my home. When I walked into her room, her eyes flew open and followed me around the room.  I waved my purple-gloved hand at her and smiled broadly, “Hi, Mom,” I said, in my loudest voice. “Groovy is here to entertain you.”

Her eye lids flickered and she smiled.

I twirled for her so she could see the entire costume and then danced with my arms. Then I pulled out Stinky, my skunk puppet, and he snuggled into her cheek. “I think Stinky likes you,” I said. ‘Better watch out he doesn’t…” I lifted Stinky’s tail just enough to suggest s spray, a private family joke. I threw Stinky in the air as if he had jumped before returning him to my bag. Next, I produced a giant feather and she seemed to like me drawing it across her cheek.

I had never felt so motivated to make someone laugh. She watched me for ten minutes or more. Then she spoke; I moved closer to hear what she was saying, “You’re funnier than you think you are,” she said and then closed her eyes. I gave her a light kiss on the forehead before I left. On my way out, I greeted the other residents half-heartedly as I pondered my mother’s words. Whatever I did, she liked it.