For you, the dress code is casual.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Beginning of the End

I always tell my students to "just keep writing. Eventually, you'll break through the surface and tap into the marrow." Meaning, don't just assume you've laid out as much as you got to lay out. Sometimes, you can access a little more.

I was signing off on a posting about gluttony, during which I was trying to rationalize buying a little dope for a weekend binge, when this came out:

Maybe also it being the anniversary of my mom's death is part of the reason I've become weakened. I don't think of her much these days. Life's moved a long ways since then, but every now and then a phase comes on me and I just get nostaligic [for good or bad] about it. I remember the day I realized she was going to die; it was a Wednesday. Sixteen days later, she'd be dead. I knew she was not in good standing, but she was gone the last two weeks. Her brother died and she flew to Toronto for the funeral. A brave face was had during every phone conversation. Little did I know it was foreshadowing that which was to come.

I had spent the previous afternoon looking for four-leaf clovers. Anything resembling luck was mandatory now. No stepping on cracks. No black cats crossing paths. And a clover. I never did find one. For the first time in my life when looking for a four-leaf clover, I failed to find one. I tried again later that night as I sat watching the sunset. She'd be home the next day. I just kept lazily spreading apart the grass at Jericho as I watched the sun dipping west of the mountains. I found one then, but it was torn.

She came home the next day, and I walked the whole way home from work for the first time ever, about five kilometres, for some headspace before I saw her. I knew, for some reason, that I'd finally then have an idea if the cancer was back with a vengeance like I'd feared. On my way, I picked flowers from all the roundabouts, so I had a giant bouquet of wild-and-otherwise flowers for her when I walked through that door.

And when I walked through that door, I saw that she had become confined to a wheelchair.

I'd find out later that her tumour had grown so large it was slowly beginning to shut down every organ, and was crushing her spine. She never walked again.

I don't remember what the final straw was. I remember that, that night, I knew it was coming to an end. She lay on the couch the whole night and all the next day. Now I remember -- she began vomiting. She wasn't able to eat, and hadn't for a few days. I called my mom's doctor, who's now my doc, and he told me I had to keep her on Gatorade. Soon, that was being vomited up. She could no longer hydrate. I called him at home.

"Call the ambulance. Now. She needs to get to the hospital and get onto an IV, ASAP. She can hydrate tonight, and I'll be there tomorrow for the tests. You need to be ready. This doesn't sound good." He was honest then, he's honest now.

I called 9-1-1. An ambulance came "quietly," as the dispatch said. There was no rush. Of course there was no rush. It was just your standard cancer death. Time really isn't much of the essence.

She was taken out of our home on a gurney. It was the last time she'd ever be there. She was like me; took great pride in her home, decorated beautifully. It's a sin it had to be dismantled and left behind, like a shrugged-off legacy. That's what death does.

I've never written of that experience before. I also never wrote of the conversation I had with her earlier that day. I had a feeling she'd be dead soon, and I knew there wasn't much time. I just knew. I called work and said I couldn't go in. Normally, my mother would've guilted me for hours. All she did this time was smile sadly and squeeze my hand.

We didn't acknowledge it much. I sat on the floor, my face a foot from hers, and we talked the whole morning. Eventually, I rather shakily let her know that I felt her end was coming, and I told her I knew she was in incredible pain. I said I couldn't bear to see that, and though I wasn't ready to be a motherless daughter, that it was her time and she had to go. I'd be there for my nephew, and I'd keep an eye on him and keep him safe, I said, and she could just go. She let a tear dribble down her cheek, just one, and squeezed my hand. Then we talked about something else, what my apartment would look like one day or travelling or something. And randomly, later, she said, "Thank you." That was it.

She didn't fight it. She gave in. The day after she checked in, she began checking out. There are days I regret giving her permission to die, but I know it's just my selfishness. I'd have liked to have her around just a little longer. No matter how much we talked, there were things we never discussed. I don't have many regrets in life, but there are days that is one.

I wish, more than anything, that I had written back then. I wish, more than anything, that I didn't have writer's block, that I wasn't scared of keeping a record of my life. Because I did, I was, and now there's so much I forget.

And when memories are all you have, forgetting's the worst you can experience.

I'll never forget the feelings, any of them. But I'm devastated to have forgotten the words.

And I guess that's what's on my mind tonight. The anniversary's Sunday. I'm glad I wrote this. It's a weight gone.

And if someone else is a fucking idiot and says to this what that other person said to the other posting about my mom last week, "Move on," I'll blow a fucking gasket, I swear. You move on, pal. It's my fucking blog. I could write about all the shallow shit I did today, but this is real. This is that marrow I spoke of, and it's as fine a thing as it can be. Truth is always worth saving, and I've never been able to write about this before, so I'm thrilled I can now. And you know, for the first time today, I'm breathing easy, literally. Like my asthma problems just up and vanished. Funny, that.