Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Her Baby

My mother.

She raised 7 children, of which I was the baby. That was her job. I can't recall a single time she hired a babysitter for me. She was always there. She never worked outside of the home. Would do everything for her family, even to her own detriment. A true mother. And we fought like cats and dogs. Looking back, I like to think this is becaue we were more alike than even we realized. All of us 7 children had our labels: the Crazy One, the Smart One, the Mischievous One, the Responsible One. My title? Simple. I was Her Baby. All of my years growing up.

My senior year of high school, I was working on college applications when they told us Mom was in the final stages of lung disease. I couldn't leave her. I refused. But then something happened, and she seemed improved, and we decided I would go. And so I did. But everytime I would call home, it would seem, she would be in the hospital. I will never forget the phone call I made one day, when she told me she had signed the papers. What papers? The Do Not Resuscitate Order. When did it get that bad? I took a leave of absence from school for a week to go home and assess the situation. The plan was to see how things were, and return and finish finals if she seemed okay, but to withdraw if not. She acted fine. Same ol' Mom. So on the Sunday night before I was to make my return to class, I was getting my things loaded into the car. She knocked on the glass of the window beside her bed, and I went back into the house. She was crying, and hesitated some before asking me if I remembered my purse. It seemed like there was something strange going on, someting more she wanted to say. The purse question was just so silly. But she insisted all was fine, and I started the 2-hour trip back to campus, driven by my then-boyfriend.

But I cried the entire time. Something was telling me that I should've stayed home. She died the next morning, surrounded by my brothers and sisters, and my father, her husband of 32 years. She died before my sister, with the help of the college staff, could locate me in my freshman psych class. The entire way home, I didn't even know she was gone. The hospital staff had warned my sister that, once she finally spoke to me, she should not tell me my mother had died over the telephone. So she didn't. She just told me mom was okay, but that I needed to come home. I thought I was doing so to say goodbye. I never dreamed my opportunity for that had passed when she had asked me a silly question about a purse the night before.

Had I have known, I would not have left that night. I would've stayed there with her, holding her hand and apologizing for all I said and never said. I would've made sure I had every detail of her face, her laugh, her voice memorized.

She was ever the mother. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that she held on until I left that night. Later recounts of her last breath revealed to me how much I was loved by her. The story goes like this: She was holding my oldest sister's hand on one side, and my father's hand on the other. And she looked at them all, her children, her life's work, and said "Just make sure My Baby is taken care of." Meaning me. Still. Her Baby.

That year, and the years following were cruel to me. She died in April. The following month, May, was one of those years where her birthday actually fell on Mother's Day. May has always been difficult for me for that reason. I hate May. It's been 14 years, and I still do. The idea that the world keeps turning on its axis without her here is still so unbelievable to me. Over the years, I have learned to put on a happy face to mask her absence for E's sake. He brings home macaroni art and construction paper cards from school, and I act like it is the best day in the world for his sake. J knows the truth, and knows I don't want him to buy me cards or jewelry or flowers. Mother's Day is not a celebration for me. Mom isn't here.

I've missed her in my life. She wasn't there when I got married. She wasn't there when I became a mother. Not physically. I have even made my living taken care of people who are dying of the same condition. I would be lying if I said there weren't days where I see her in my patients. Those are the hardest ones, but also the ones I can help the most. And I can honestly tell their loved ones, as mom or dad slips away from this world, that I have been where they are.

I ask myself everyday if she would be proud of me. Is she looking? Yes, I think she is. Because she always has a way of creeping into the big moments. When J and I married on Christmas Eve, a ceramic angel figurine fell onto a tile floor without breaking. The night E was born, when I was finally able to sleep, I dreamed of her laughing and playing with him in a field of the greenest grass I had ever seen. We never told him anything more than that his grandma, Mama's Mom, is in Heaven. But one day, out of the blue, he referred to his Angel Grandma. And the day I graduated with my degree in respiratory therapy? Well, it fell on Mom's birthday.

So here I am. All of these year later. And we have E. And we are having Zachary. My amnio, I just realized, is on my Mom's birthday. It will now be the day I find ot my son's lungs are okay. How bizarre. He will be born in the same week she was, the week of Mother's Day. He'll have her birthstone, and I will be constantly reminded of the emerald jewelry she always cherished.

But why? Why May? Why the worst month of the year for me? Easy. I really think it is Mom again. I don't think she could stand that there was a whole month where Her Baby was sad. Once again, she is fixing something for me. Zachary is coming to give me reason to celebrate again.

No comments:

Post a Comment