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I did something this afternoon that I hardly ever do. I cleaned.

Not my office or my hard drive. My dining room.

I took everything off window sills and tables. I pored lemon oil on the wood and buffed the furniture. I rearranged family photos, moving my mother-in-law’s photo from its perch overlooking our table to a more distinguished place in the living room. I put her where she can do the most good and enjoy herself. She’d be gratified by our cozy nights in the living room so she’s here for the winter.

I sewed a rip in a cloth shade hanging on the porch door and thought every stitch about how my mother fixed everything. How did she have the patience for this, I thought, not realizing until the end that she never considered frivolous replacement as an option like I did when the end of the tiny needle speared my middle finger. I think mending things gave my mother patience with tiny stitches and tolerance for the imperfect. Beautiful quiet things easily lost to the next generation. It is so easy to go to Target.

But if I had gone to Target, I would have missed the many minutes of thinking about my mother, a dozen straight pins between her lips like tiny cigarettes, a tape measure slung over her shoulder, studying the challenge at hand, no doubt ever shown that she could fix whatever the trouble. I didn’t admire that enough back then. I just took it for granted.

I cleaned and polished and sewed my little rip because I’m getting ready to have my cochlear implant surgery on Thursday. For weeks I’ve been planning this, how I would spend the few days leading up to the surgery cleaning my house. But it was only today that I realized why.

I need to calm down.

I need to spend some time where the only thing I’m thinking about is polishing the furniture. And then being happy about how beautiful it looks. Not thinking about how things will change or if they’ll change. Not worrying about hearing or not hearing. Just making right what is in my power right now to make right.

My dining room table is shining.