She’s never seen the sea. Ninety-three years old and never even flown over the ocean in an “aero-plane.” Ninety-three going on fourteen, Esme says about their mother but then again Esme is the eldest. Clara sees it differently. Why is she bringing this up? Meaning: Is she dying?
Apparently not. The nurse at the retirement home says their mother is no more at risk of dying than anyone crossing the road. We could all get swiped by these maniacs, she says, pointing at little Mrs. Kaplansky who’s had a close call that very morning. Mrs. Kaplansky puts one foot tremulously in front of the other while poking her cane at imaginary drivers. Speed demons! Speed demons! she says. The week before, loud enough for everyone in the residents’ lounge to hear, she said: Me? I’ve never had an organza in my whole life, shaking her head like a child denied a trip to the amusement park. Esme laughed so hard she peed her pants.
Clara is the one who flies their mother to Miami Beach: seagulls screaming in the clear blue sky, waves washing ashore, teenagers drenching each other with pails of water. Mom clings to Clara’s arm as if it’s a life preserver until Clara sits her down in a folding chair and goes for ice cream. Coming back Clara sees her mother, socks off, pants rolled up to her knees. Come here, her mother calls to a long lean boy carrying a bucket of water. She has to say it twice but he comes, blond beach god that he is, waves to his friends that he’ll just be a minute. Mom lifts one foot then another and dips them in the cool clear liquid. The look on her face is something even little Mrs. Kaplansky would have recognized.