Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Orange Toenails for Eternity

             A gift that keeps on giving

A few days before she went into the hospital, and right before her voice gave out for good, we talked on the phone, pretending everything was normal.  Somehow she remained slightly optimistic, based on what, I’ll never know.  In what would be our last conversation, she told me her long-time manicurist had come by the condo that afternoon. She wanted her acrylic nails removed.

“It could be toxic,” she explained. “The chemicals could get into my system.” “Oh, good, Mom,” I said, struggling to sound upbeat. “I’m so glad you did that.”  She went on to deliver a bit of unsettling news.  “She offered to do my toenails, which was very sweet. She said it was on her. So she takes out the only nail polish she brought. And it’s orange. She knows I don’t like orange. She kept apologizing. ‘I’m sorry, orange is all I have, is it okay?’ What am I going to say? I let her do them, of course, but I still can’t believe my toes are orange.”

Whether she meant to or not, she made me laugh out loud. We laughed together. It was our last laugh, and it was a good one.  “When have I ever had orange anything?”  “Never. You never wear orange,” I said.  “It’s not my color.” “It’s not mine either.” “We’re not orange people.”

Those orange toes soon took on greater importance. They’d started the morphine drip. She wasn’t long for this world, and she knew it. My brother John was gently massaging her feet, trying to relax her. She couldn’t speak anymore, but I knew what she was thinking. She looked down at her toes, then up at me. There was urgency in her eyes.  I started to interpret for her. “I know, Mom. I know. They’re orange. You don’t like orange. You’re going out with orange toes. That sucks.”

She appeared nightly in my dreams for awhile. In one dream, she showed up, dressed entirely in orange. She had a critical message to share.  “Be careful what color you wear when you die,” she cautioned. “Because whatever color you have on, that’s what you’ll be wearing for eternity. Look at me! I’m stuck with orange. I don’t like orange.”  I woke up laughing. Even from the beyond, her humor came through.  Later on, I went to the store and bought an orange top. I wore it in her honor. If she had to wear orange, so did I.


  1. Mary Lohnes McCollonJune 1, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Carol, this is a funny and loving tribute to your mom! I understand your feelings about the color orange! I have hated and I mean hated the color orange..forever....so guess what color shows up in my living room? ORANGE...OMG and why would that be.....cause it's the best accent color for the room! LOL!

  2. Thanks, Mary. Your comment means so much.

  3. Marsha Niles SlowinskiJune 1, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    You do have a tremendous gift with words. Very moving and encompassing so many feelings at once. I am moved. And...I don't like orange either!

  4. We're not orange people! Thank you so much!