She sat next to me on that gray-blue upholstered couch, the sofa we pulled into a sleeper whenever guests stayed overnight. She sat next to me, stroking my hair, wet with fevered sweat. Last she checked the mercury thermometer, the heat revved to 104º and was only pouring on more steam. It was a Sunday night, strange those hazy memories: 60 Minutes flickering on the screen, body like a furnace, dizzy delirium. It was like I was trapped in a kaleidoscope.

 

My mom sat next to me. I don't remember anything she said. But she sat there, and she fought the fever with me. She fought it for me. Because I'm a father now, I know she was fighting harder than my own body, that she felt a pain my eleven-year-old, ravaged body couldn't yet know.

 

With the fever still climbing, my mom put me in the bathtub filled with ice. I shivered and ached while she poured all her love and energy and fierceness into that fight. And she won. The fever cried uncle.

 

A few years ago, cancer had my mom down for the count. I went to see her, and it turned out to be the last time. She couldn’t get out of bed. She laid under the quilts with her silk paisley scarf over her bare head. She was tenacious for so long, fought that cancer well into the fifteenth round. But she was spent. She couldn’t taste much or hold much down. Pain shot through her body like an electric cattle prod.

 

I was a grown man, forty-three. I had two strapping boys of my own. But all I wanted was to crawl up in that bed with my mom. I laid close to her and put my arms around her. We lay still. We both cried. Everything in me wanted to fight for her the way she fought for me. I wanted to fight the cancer she couldn’t fight anymore. I wanted to dunk her in ice or swallow a gallon of chemo or scream at God to make him do something. I wanted to get my hands around that cancer's neck and squeeze it till it turned blue and went limp. I wanted to make that bastard cancer cry uncle.

 

But I couldn’t. All I could do was lay there beside her. Cry with her. Tell her I loved her. This was my mother’s fight, again. And my fight was to be present. Holding her in love. And she held firm to that love that holds us all until she breathed her last. I believe she holds firm to that love still. I believe she’s wanting me, and all of us, to continue the fight.