Families logo

No Pennies in My Handkerchief

but plenty love in my heart

By The Dani WriterPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
No Pennies in My Handkerchief
Photo by Dhaya Eddine Bentaleb on Unsplash

Hey Mom!

Have someone access the ‘Read Aloud’ feature for this letter.

Cuz it’s private for your eyes only that’s why. Yeah, under the Review tab—that capital ‘A’ that says ‘Speech.’ Uh-huh. Tell ’em click it.

Just ignore the robotic-sounding voice. It’s me okay.

It has been a stiff learning curve.

You don’t get to know secret Mama language until you become one, am I right? Eye contact and ninja comms that don’t get taught. They get transfused.

At times, 'overwhelment' is the home address we signify on reflex when asked. When knee-deep in that much excrement, you lose words.

Moms. They understand without ‘em.

If speech kicks in later…it’s processed pain that still hurts. It's just hidden well.

Handkerchiefs are for wiping eyes and noses. Symbolic of body fluid loss in one form or another and surrender but I didn’t discern that as their primary use. Mine bordered yellow and another identical one green with delicate flowers and adorable grey rabbits. They held wealth. Knowledge. Silent understandings.

Maybe I’m gonna say what you already know, but at least now you’ll have reasons as to why.

It has been years.

Before a disability robbed your ability to speak, you never failed to ask me, ”When are you coming home?”

Is it hypocritical to ignore regrets? Push them to subterranean depths past boundaries of awareness like we’re not supposed to have them. Did you ever think acknowledging their presence was pointless? I’m sure I asked a million questions growing up, Mommy but not those ones, huh.

I don’t wanna to feel sad.

Don’t want you sad either.

Not now.

Not now.

Regret is last weekend’s baby bird that fell from my rooftop to the metal step below in searing heat right in front of me. Tiny, featherless, and alone. Whilst breathing dying breaths, its sibling fell near it with a macabre reality mini-thud. That place of 'no way to intervene.' It sucks.


It won’t be ignored. Can’t be pretended away when its unopened eyes know you’ve seen the impact permeate.

It becomes a type of highbrow taboo.

A well-known neighborhood house you aren’t supposed to visit.

By Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Full-fledged off-kilter feelings, difficult to pin down but real as rain.

So talk about it.


Well. A literal ocean lay between us.

We were not coping over here.

I strain the totality of brain cell memory to figure out how you did it. I clearly remember watching you. Curious young eyes. Sent off to Sunday School with a Mommy-transformed handkerchief trick that fascinated me. It held abundance, comfort, and lessons. Only on the rarest of occasions was it forgotten. I’d look inside to see an empty handkerchief and nothing more.

Mom, remember how much more I had to call when we first moved away because of my son’s inconsolable cries for you and Dad? Face time an imaginary double scoop chocolate ice cream cone with sprinkles that could never be slurped and savored. Beneath the surface, undetectable sinister changes.

Children know.

He knew.

By Dragon Pan on Unsplash

Unfiltered union with Elders and Ancestors. My son fought for that connection the only way he knew how. With gut-wrenching sobs and a 180˚ about-face on walking through the school doors at the start of day. He transformed into kick and scream resistance, expressing to the world what I could not. Bereft of that golden time when grandparents and grandchildren spend the lion’s share of uninterrupted time together. Solidifying memories. Creating a permanent gateway for special secrets beyond this life. Passing down generational migration stories, trails, and more.

I knew too.

From the strength of his cries to their tone and timbre. Excruciating would be a descriptive understatement. Of all your grandchildren, and the

My Mom with her youngest grandson

youngest grandson, he alone got to spend the least amount of time with you. I ache in places not visible. Measurable. None of this journey-leg was supposed to take this long.

The plan: To care for you, Dad, and every other relative I grew up loving. A primary reason for the nursing degree in the first place. I lived out a childhood interacting with older relatives living at home.

The first experience with a difference: That day you walked me and my brother to visit your grandmother in the Extended Care Unit (ECU) at the hospital. Such soulless conditions burned in my memory. This is no way for anyone to live out their end of days. The healthcare qualification would assist all soon-to-become-elders in our family. No one goes in a rest home. Not on my watch.

I sense unspoken threads. Those bond-defying timelines to your mother and her mother who now sits in ECU crying her eyes out silently when she learns you’ve brought her great-grandchildren to see her—our first and last visit there. My adult self peeks back in time. Before me resides the source of handkerchief magic…and I didn’t have one when needed.

I transformed to thin borderline transparent primordial sludge clinging to the underside of pavement and abandoned buildings, the embodiment of helplessness and despair. I contemplated the unspeakable to get back to you. To bring your grandchildren back.

”When are you coming home?”

“I’m almost finished Mom. Just a bit longer and I’ll soon be there (unspoken: to help take care of you.)”

I wanted to keep you safe and happy at home but I was not there.

Hope by itself.


I occupied precarious space. A balancing act. Not knowing how much time you had left. I wished for a fast-forward button to press on my life while I paused your own.

My son's anguish-laden shrieks and mine.

The family drowns in struggles for your and Daddy's daily care until a rest home became the only remaining safe option...except it wasn’t.

Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels

In the final year of my program, the news is a lightning strike.

“…Mom’s been rushed to hospital…life-threatening…it doesn’t look good.”

Compounded medication errors and inadequate care provision.


Nothing else mattered.

Screw the degree.

But I'm playing ‘Stuck-in-the-mud’ for real.


The way Grandmother and Great-grandmother embodied ingenuity on reflex. Make something out of nothing. Make do. An easy facet of who they were, are. Like it was no big deal. Save the fish scraps and make chowder. Keep a few seeds and plant tomatoes. Handkerchiefs are multi-use, multi-purpose. Mommy, you tied dimes, nickels, and pennies inside cotton cloth flowers and rabbits. Placed in little girl purses for the collection plate. I kept those hankies you know. Tucked away inside a keepsake treasure box. I wished I’d understood sooner.

I didn’t get it.

The few scattered voices of senior nurses faint and far away.

By Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

"Nurse salaries are minuscule. Deplorable."

They’d work a second job to support 'careers' like a prized hobby. That still didn’t compute to me. Perhaps days of threadbare-scraped-pennies university life for them had been long forgotten.

Can’t be worse than no-money studenthood.

Or so I thought.

A frugal no caffeine non-alcohol-drinking vegetarian like me would have no problem after attaining the holy grail of registration, right? I’ll make it work. I need to get home.

“Are you coming home now?”

Qualitative differences heard. Your message direct into my mind.

I know you wonder what is keeping me.

After working 37.5 hours a week for just over a month, my payslip advice listed a net total of £998. The following month £1098. Speechless didn’t quite cover it. Even after my tax code was “sorted out” the remainder barely covered rent and bills with the remote possibility of airfare by pinching pennies, in two years. Maybe. I didn’t have that long.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels

A meted-out death sentence for me but you were the one dying. I could not bring myself to tell you, could not bear eyes of sad reflected back longing. Or confusion.

“Ain’t they paying you?

*I'm wondering too. Is this what they call a livable wage while you die?*


No one knew.

The delay for plane tickets. Too long.

My handkerchief… empty…trying the make-do-magic thing…and failing.

I take out a loan and cut a trail home.

Mom with every breath. Mom visions. Mom at all costs. Mom or bust.

Early-stage Alzheimer’s and your words are gone.


Regret forces cries through my throat. The regret I’m not supposed to have. The regret deemed pointless yet there, nonetheless.

By Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I use words for both of us. Fill the space in the hospital room with a lifetime of memories. Remind you. Make the most of every moment. Read to you. Lavish love. Experience more reverent grace than galactic empires when you manage to say “Love you” even once.

Did you know I later found out, they were still taking way too much tax out my paycheck? Got the biggest tax refund ever. But what good is that when needed back then? For time. For talks. For more of you.

Too late. I wasn’t fast enough. Late for dinner. Late for pick up. Catching the water truck. Vegetable stand. Your favorite wholesale place.

It’s alright, Mom. The housework’s all done. Your favorite program’s about to come on. I’ll make homemade pizza from scratch with chocolate chip cookies for dessert. You’d like that.

Smiles. Lit-up eyes and smiles.

Worked-through regrets. Not as big and bad when given light and air. Seen for what they are. Just places where I would have piled in more love.

Forever yours,


Mini-me 5 yrs

Read more below about the amazing spirit who is my Mom!

Thank you so much for reading this! The story was heartwrenching to write and share. Your compassion and sensitivity here are immensely valued.

If you'd like to read more of my work, check below:

Did you enjoy this or any of my other stories? Feel free to like, comment, subscribe, tip, pledge, and/or share with friends and social media sites. If you wish to promote in other forums, you can secure permission @thedaniwriter

immediate family

About the Creator

The Dani Writer

Explores words to create worlds with poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Writes content that permeates then revises and edits the heck out of it. Interests: Freelance, consultations, networking, rulebook-ripping. UK-based





Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  4. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  5. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

Add your insights

Comments (5)

  • Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛2 years ago

    Very deep and moving

  • Kiki Le Tigre2 years ago

    This hit right in the gut for me, very moving writing. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    Very emotional and incredibly well written

  • This was very touching!

  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Emotional and heartfelt!!!👏💖😊💕

The Dani WriterWritten by The Dani Writer

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.