A Spider and a Leaf

The Spider, most likely a species of cellar spider, September 2022

This is the spider I could not kill. It spun its web along the outside curb of the shower in the finished basement of my mother’s house.

When my husband and I visit my mom, we stay in that basement, an elegant suite with a large bank of windows, a beautiful bathroom, a spacious living room, and a large bedroom.

But I’ve killed other spiders, many times, in that same place. I can’t fathom where they come from or why they like the spot on the outside curb of the shower in the elegant basement.

I discovered this spider a couple of days after my mother had quadruple bypass surgery in September. But I did not grab a piece of tissue paper, I did not squish it, and I did not flush it down the toilet. The spider in the bathroom and my mother in the hospital reminded me of an O. Henry story called “The Last Leaf.”

The leaves

In the story a young woman with pneumonia believes she will die. Dailey, she watches leaves drop from a vine outside her window and believes when the last leaf falls, she, too, will expire. And so, because I read a story forty years ago, the spider stayed. I wanted to believe as long as the spider existed, my mother would recover.

I visited my mother in the hospital. I walked her dog at home. And when I took a shower, I was mindful of the spindly spider. Its existence or extinction would not impact my mother’s recovery. But I remembered the old painter in “The Last Leaf” who paints a leaf so realistically on the wall outside the dying woman’s window, it fools her and she recovers.

And so, the spider stayed. Not because I believed it would guarantee my mother would get better, but because it was all that I could control.

My mother is three months into her recovery, and doing well. I’m not sure about the spider. But the last time I saw it in October, it still commanded the corner along the outside curb of the shower in the elegant basement.

8 thoughts on “A Spider and a Leaf

    • I connect so much to stories I’ve read. I hadn’t thought of the O. Henry story in a long time. When I went to the Superior Library to checkout a book of O. Henry stories, our library didn’t have any collections of his stories, so I had to get it through library loan. The librarian who ordered the book for me said that “The Last Leaf” was her favorite O. Henry story,

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