“Life is meant to be a joy,” I say. The circles of her eyes tighten, a camera lens reacting to an increase in light.

“It’s not meant to be a struggle,” I continue, now wondering why I persist. Is it my conviction, my love for her, or my wish for her ease or the age-old wish for her to be wrong?

She inhales on her cigarette in a gasp. “I don’t believe that,” she says. “Life is a struggle. It’s a fight and we’re meant to learn from it.” A haze of smoke accompanies the last words.

I think of her ease. Retirement didn’t bring it. Divorce from my alcoholic father didn’t bring it. Her children’s’ flight from the nest did nothing for it. Boxers hang up their gloves when they leave the ring. They leave them looped over a locker and let the shower wash away the fight.

I want to take her wrist in my lap, to gently cut the strings and slide the weapons off her digits. I would rub lemon oil and lavender into her battered hands. I could hold these palms to my cheeks. Let her feel the warmth of yesterday’s sun on my skin. “You can rest. Rage no more. Let the dying of the light be a ferry man.”

She drags again on the cigarette, again imprisons the smoke - her lips clamp it in. She’s waiting for my response. I cannot say again that it’s not meant to be a struggle. I cannot argue about this. Not again. Not now. Not with her. All I am capable of is silence. In it I watch my mother’s smoke. (1994)