Sometimes, numbers are mysterious.

Yesterday or so, I realized it had been 28 years (July of 1994) since my mother fooled me with a mother’s greatest grace.

I also realized that it was almost 28 years since her birth when her daughter fooled her with a daughter’s “Look who’s here!” *grace.*

It’s not unusual for me to muse her in summer; tomorrow would’ve been her 98th. I’m certain she’d not have appreciated this time in the world.

For weeks in ’94, she had called me her angel. I believed it. There was nothing I wouldn’t and didn’t do for her (except clip her toenails — I did my hairy-toenail time with four-count-em-four infants / babies / toddlers / kids; there was no delicate Mom, cat, dog, old one in nursing homes for whom I’d go there again).

When the undertaker in her bedroom asked me if I wanted to see her one last time before they brought her out of the building, I’d said No, that I’d seen her daily and around the clock for 9 months (again, the numbers!), but I added, “Wait.. let me send this off with her.”

I handed him a little white plastic angel she always had on display. He raised an eyebrow, but said, “Certainly.” (Her other angel couldn’t go with her, but this one would hold that one’s place, keep her company..)

She didn’t know how much young-life I’d sacrificed for her; to her, my serving was her due to receive as a mother, and mine as a daughter to give. She’d done it for her mother; I’d do it for mine!

It has taken me 28 years to realize that even as she said, “My angel,” she knew darned well I didn’t really fit that bill. But I believed her.

No doubt, she is smiling right now.

And in some way yet to come, presuming I haven’t already done so, I will figure out how to call each of my own four, “My angel.” I want them to hold that mostly true affirmation for 18, 20, 32 and 35 years after the eventual fact.

I want to fool them kindly with the mercy that is love, and the love that is mercy for at least that long — until they can smile over it, too.