Sunday, November 12, 2017
of mothers and losing them
When I was around 7 years old, I had a horrible dream that my mother abandoned me, dissappearing over a grayed wooden fence that separated the area behind our garage from the neighbor's yard and into a field full of daisies and was gone. It was devastating for a 7 year old, and the sort of dream that I remembered after waking up crying, cried over subsequent nights. was as close to praying that I ever got asking to never, ever have a dream like that again. Over time, the fear of it lessened, but I remembered it, have even used the memory a couple times in writing (see the poem "fictions" in my brief history of girl as match chapbook.) It was mostly filed under the THINGS I AM FORBIDDEN TO THINK about file, even when my mother survived a cancer scare when I was 13. I remember horrified that I wasn't ready to be motherless, yet, was not sure how any teenage girl could make it out intact without one, even if we fought a lot and there were times I was convinced she was absolutely insane (and maybe I was too.) We were lucky, and later, when I was in my mid 20's, she had some surgery complications from a gall bladder and hernia, we were even luckier.
I was no stranger to lost love ones, most of my grandparents going early, sometimes unexpectedly, more often after long, terrible illnesses. Cancer. Freak falls resulting in blood clots. An uncle with MS. Maybe because I was so young in each of these it was easier to lose them somehow. By the time I hit adulthood, I had lost all grandparents, and would soon lose other aunts and uncles and many cats and dogs. But parents are of course, different, wound inextricably into your daily life for so long, people who are dependent upon for the first 20 odd years of your life and sometimes longer. At some point I suppose you no longer absolutely need them in the way you once did, though certainly they are an important part of your life and emotional support network if you allow them to be.
I didn't always take advantage of this--my mother in particular being a complicated knot of worry. So there was much that while I didn't exactly hide things from her if she asked, I did not come rushing forward to tell her. Financial troubles, romantic dramas. While in some arenas I shared everything with her, there was always a holding back of things that would worry her, or that I felt were too private even to share with my own mother, the person who had known me longest and best. When I first moved to the city and began working the night shift, she would have me ring her phone twice and hangup to ensure I wasn't lying in an alley somewhere. It went on for years, until email and social media allowed more regular check-ins. She always said of she tried calling and I didn't answer she would wait a couple hours and then be on her way into the city--convinced I was dead. Over the years, her primary worry shifted to my sister, who was plagued with more health problems and everyday dangers, so I got off the hook a little.
And maybe the worry-worn heart contributed to her death in many ways, heart disease being the chief culprit and so many of these things stemming from stress on that single muscle in the body, particular in the past couple of years, growing to include not only general motherly worry & anxiety, but extended family conflicts that she fretted over more than anyone else. My mother, of course, had been a controlled diabetic and treated for accompanying diseases (blood pressure and cholesterol) for 35 years. In the past 10 years, she had trouble sleeping well in past years due to leg cramps and strange allergic reactions to things. She was on xanax the last years of her life. All things I imagine take a toll on the body slowly over time, and eventually resulted in her heart attack last winter. Since then, she would get better, then worse, then better, then worse. Her general good health falling like a row of dominos. A weird sudden latex allergy that wrecked her lower legs. Cuts and sores on her heels from a fall that resulted in a bone infection. I thought we'd lost her for sure during the bout of delerium and the foot surgery, but she held on a bit longer, but in the end was begging to be let go. Her heart finally gave up the ghost. And perhaps she did, finally just let go.
I am good about mentally preparing for things, but then you are never prepared for something like this. I did get to see her reguarly on weekend trips to the hospital and rehab center, had been stuck working the last two weeks she was alive and therefore missed some opportinities to be there in the end. Part of me still expected her to get better, even if it got worse again. I expected her to make it through the holidays. I expected, hope against all hope, for her to eventually pull out of it. She always did, right? In my preparations, I was reading some articles on losing parents and know that guilt is a huge part of it, so was prepared for that particular wave. Particularly living in another city, no matter how often I made it home (which was frequently but maybe not frequently enough) Also the horrible complicated feeling almost of relief, that the shoe I've been waiting to drop for months, that I don't have to worry about her because the worst thing has, in fact, already happened. She's safe from all the terrible suffering that could afflict her.
Sundays will of course, be hard when we miss our regular phone call. Family gatherings & holidays where I expect to turn a corner and find her there among the crowd. She was not a daily part of my life in the city, so somehow that makes it easier somehow, but those feelings are always there, waiting to knock you on your ass when you least expect it. When I hurt my wrist a couple years back in a fall on the bus, it hurt like hell, and I laughed when I was high, because it felt like it still hurt, but that the pain was very, very far away. In many ways, since Monday, this pain feels a lot like that, creeping around the edges and knocking me flat suddenly and without warning. There is still a certain unrealness to it that I don't know if it will ever go away.