Sunday, October 3, 2010
My mother died.
I called her that morning. She’d had another bad night, throwing up, so weak. She weighed eighty pounds, couldn’t walk, couldn’t eat. That’s not you. She told me the caregiver was ignoring her cries. “I just want her to hold my hands. They’re so cold. so cold, hold my hands in her hot hot hands.” “Augusta, Augusta Augusta,” she called. Her voice was shrill and frightened, making the second “u” like oo in a wail. I told her I would come. She sat in her darkened bedroom. Her cheekbones visible ridges in her face. Her hipbones burning pain, raw pain bone on bone pain. I held her hands and then her feet. “Oh that’s right, baby, just like that,” She didn’t want me to rub them, just hold them. She asked me about the kids, my work. Everything was okay that day, Sammy feeling better about school. We had a conference with his wonderful teacher. Things were peaceful. With us. I could give her that but she was in pain. The over the counter stuff not working. In between talking about the pain she said, “When I go, which won’t be for awhile, I want a big party. No gloom and doom. Eat, dance, play music. Celebrate life.” But at another point she wasn’t as lucid. She said,
I made a deal,” What deal, Mom?” “I can’t explain it. I made a deal.”
Gregg called the doctor for a Vicodin prescription. I had an appointment so I kissed her and left. “I love you.” “I love you all passionately,” she said. When I came back a few hours later she was drugged on the Vicodin but couldn’t really rest, moving around in the bed. Gregg had to leave. She blew him a kiss even in her delirium. He looked at me with boyish surprise, “She blew me a kiss!” Tenderly. The kiss and the response. I sat in the doorway between the room and the lit hallway so I could see her and work at the same time. She spoke every few minutes and I came in. ‘You’re wonderful.” “I have indigestion. Indigestion.” Hand to her fragile chest. “Go in the light,” she said. And: “Everything is great except for this. She said this two times with relish on the word great and no bitterness. A touch of magnificent humor in the face of the demon. She asked for tea but there was no more bottled water—Gregg was getting it so I offered her vitamin water but she couldn’t drink. The hospice people talking in the other room too loudly. I had to tell them to stop. “78 year old woman with colon, bladder, peritoneum cancer. Metastasized to the bones. SHUT THE FUCK UP. THAT’S NOT WHO SHE IS. SHE CAN HEAR YOU. I told them to be quiet. They stared at me blankly, one looking me up and down. When Gregg came back it was dark out.
We take our places on either side of her, her face has changed in seconds. The cancer has exploded it seems, taken over her body but her eyes are bright shining lit up like a child’s full of wonder moons looking deep into us. Her veined beautiful long hands with the pearl white painted nails. Held to her chest like a gazelle‘s legs crossed delicately. She takes them in one sweeping motion reaches for our hands we take hers. She pulses my palm the love pouring through our cells. Gregg says “She’s so cold. He strokes her tiny arm with one finger. Leans in, smiling studying her face, memorizing her. The way I looked at my children when they were born. Almost not quite that. She doesn’t speak slow motion gazing at him then me so deep into my eyes I feel her spirit igniting mine. A look of concern in her eyes now, worry twitching her brow. We reassure her. Slow motion she smiles at me the smile of the new mommy in my facebook photo black and white picture bright as sun as sun color. Then looks back at Gregg back at me. Back at Gregg, to foot of bed. She raises one hand palm flat to say, No, not now. Shakes her head no. Not ready yet. She has more to do. She made a deal. She’s not so cold now. I show Gregg he touches her hand where I’m holding it. He agrees. I am proud, I warmed her. A little. Gregg sobs this huge gorgeous man pressed down by it she looks worried we reassure her. She smiles back at me looks to foot of bed , No, not yet. She smiles back at me an eerie smile because it is so alive in a diminishing face. And then then to the foot of the bed she smiles at whoever is there moves her gaze back and forth in space as if seeing something in flight angels? Breathing is labored we give her a drop of morphine she has trouble taking it from Gregg smiles at him proudly when she does like a kid. Still labored. We give her oxygen she stops struggling looks ahead of her calm peaceful gazing into the distance. Into the face of the beloved. She has moved her hands from ours as if retreating and giving us our space respect, taking hers. She is still. I kiss her forehead.
I help Augusta change her. Not mommy a shell distorted face empty eyes not her, rigid hard to put her legs in the pants pink cotton her favorite color hard to put the clothes on her a doll. I love her I love her we talk and weep in the apartment till two am then they come to take it away. I’m nauseous, head thrumming. Drive home alone. Feel better in my house. She’s in me she’s in the full moon the wet garden my beloved, the airs glisters I place a tiny electric candle in the lap of Quan Yin by the pond. Forever I will grieve the loss of you even though you are never really gone.