When death is looming the clock ticks the loudest.
|It’s time now. This is the time. This time the doctor is not careful, but deliberate with his words, “immanent” and “ominous.” The words may have skipped past the inexperienced; but it has taken us years to get here, and I recognize them immediately. They are words I have readied for, expected, clung to the edge of hearing. I never felt confident that the doctors would be forthright enough to use them, and this left me many times trying to decipher the context of prior diagnosis. Maybe be we were just lucky enough to get a doc that could see I was ready for it – that 10 plus years had smelted an armor around my heart, built a fortress in my brain just for this moment when they came to tell me it was time now and time was measured in days and weeks, not years and possibilities, but this hard cold measure of reality and statistics churns like a hurricane in my core. Where and when will it land?
I know my mother inside and out. I have a finger on every weakness, every ill spot, every medication and dosage. I know the size of her blockages. I can recite her meds twenty plus, list in chronological detail the tribulations of each hospital visit for the last ten years. I am intimate with the lengths and depths of the emphysema permeating her chest wall. I know what it takes to set it off. We have her heart rate under control and her meds in line and the game plan is set. It was always a matter of time of course, but time was not measured in weeks or months or even years until this doctor had to spill these words choked full of meaning – so different from the past. He came along and put a number on it and changed everything.
I did know one thing, that “ominous” was a metaphor for the pillows I often begged her to move. The ominous clouds resting under her feet, that she insisted remain there as she busied her brain on solitaire. Those pillows propagated her fall and gave us three broken ribs. Those pillows led us to the discovery of the silent time bomb in her chest -- that boogeyman hiding under the bed that no one had cause to worry about just yet. I warned her about him like a child looking out into a dark and worrisome night – I knew not what would come from the fall, but I knew it would be heavy, dark and scary. I felt it in my bones, each time I implored her to move the pillows and step carefully lest she fall.
The fall is not the fault of all this, it just shone the light on the fire in her chest, a small flicker of a candle flame that has burned on both ends for many precious years – it’s just that light is growing dim now and of course we want more.
She seems all too composed “for a dying woman of such intense livaciousness” which is not a word technically but is a word that suits her perfectly, and pairs well with lavishly and lasciviously which also suit her.
None the less she is my mother and while I realize this is her end – I feel selfish and self-centered and I wonder if the doctor realizes the extent of what he is saying to me – that a part – a ginormous – part of me will be dying – that I will need to learn after 38 years to fly solo, and that means there is no one like mama again to sing my song, to cheer me on, to believe as only mama’s can do – when mama is gone you are truly on your own.
The little girl in me has been speaking a lot lately. She remembers how hard it was and still is to pull up winter tights – first one leg, then the other and inch by inch push and pull until the wedge is just right and one leg feels totally contorted by the other and the crotch feels as though its pulled right up into your brain (that is when you know mama has put a good pair of tights on you) and what a good girl you did it! Mama is always in the closet with us – in our heads questioning in the most concerned and caring of ways our immediate fashion choices. Love it while you have it ladies. When Mama is gone you are on your own in every way.
And this is what petrifies me. Who will know me better than my Mommy? Answer is no one but me; and wow that means I am going to have to get comfortable with knowing myself a lot better in the future. I am going to have to start answering to myself and that is a very scary thought all by itself. I know I will and that I can do it, but I really don’t like the idea of it; and while my mother steps closer toward her final day on this planet I can’t help but feel her pushing me further down the street – that first day of kindergarten where I look back searching her face for reassurance that I can step into a motherless world; it is here again. I see the heartache in her face, I see that she wants with all her heart to come along with me – yet she smiles and reassures me I can do this alone, that she has spent all our days readying me for this moment, and I somehow believe her as I wave goodbye and step into a new scary world alone, with only her love and faith as my guide. We have not said our final goodbye, but she knows I am taking a deep breath and I miss her already.