Have you ever found the days of a month blurring into each other in a dizzying collection of bright and dark images you can’t dissect or discuss because there’s just too much and not enough at the same time?
Today my mother had beautiful hair and bright eyes and she was wholly herself. I don’t want her to be disappointed later if she reads this – but I’m scared to believe this bright moment, this evidence of progress. I have been coming to terms with losing her for the past three weeks, not because I don’t believe she can make it, but because she’s come so close to slipping away more than once. I’ve been scared to breathe. I’ve been scared that the prophecies of my early youth for my mother might come true even though there’s no such thing as prophecies or fortune telling and even if there were, I am no seer.
Today my mother was taking charge of her recovery, asking questions, planning for her independence from nurses and IV drips, and pushing her physical therapy as far as she could so she can reclaim her body and move forward. Her white blood cell count is still high and tomorrow there is a minor procedure that, it is hoped, will bring it back down. She had some cream of wheat she didn’t throw up by noon. These are her small triumphs that are really huge.
My friend Sharon cut a small bouquet of roses from her garden for my mom’s hospital window sill that included: one heady scented Oklahoma rose, one creamy delicate Jardin de Bagatelle rose, two small sweet blushed Kaiserin Fredrich roses and a couple of fennel blossoms. My mom enjoyed every milky petal and inhaled the thick velvety perfume like a proper hedonist. I know she’s not fighting to get out of that hospital just so she can enjoy bouquets of real roses. She’s doing it because she has a fire to live more adventure, she’s doing it because she wants more time with her children and her grandchild and her sweet puppy and her best friend.
But I think she is also doing it for the love of gardens, of flowers, and for the sensual smell of honeysuckle on an early summer evening.
It’s going to take me a while to unwind from my worst fears.
Sunday has always been the worst day. The day of empty bells and chimes ringing inconsequentially in otherwise silent towns. The day of regurgitating overdoses and suicides. The day of sudden regret and pleadings for mercy. The day of scraping heart-valves and blind love off the tarry asphalt. The day of splintered crosses and flagellation. The day of exclusion and expulsion.
Three Sundays ago my mom went to the hospital and almost died and hasn’t come home yet, 23 days later, and I’m still feeling bruised and scared and breathless. I’m drinking plenty of beer to hide it.
I suppose I haven’t hidden it that well at all.
Today my mom was better than I’ve seen her since before she was admitted to the hospital and it did my heart good to see her so well. I am trying not to be superstitious and parsimonious with my hope. I’m struggling with my need for being prepared and my desire to let go of caution and believe that everything is going to be okay no matter what the data suggests.
Most of you have already gone through what I’m going through with someone you love. You’ll have your own views and your own bruises. I haven’t invented the hospital vigil. You’ve all gone through this with various outcomes. You’ve struggled with the equation of hope versus superstition. You’ve struggled with the need to let go versus the need to hold on. You’ve struggled with guilt over thoughts you worried were disloyal or unworthy. You have anticipated the grief to come and let go of grief that never came to pass. You’ve all been here where I am.
You will forgive me, I hope, for writing what you already know.
My mom will forgive me, I hope, for having such a fragile heart.