In 2014, after my last break up, I moved back in with parents. I did this for two reasons: 1. Living alone was not an option for me because my mind plays tricks on me when I am alone and 2. I have a history of excessive spending and struggle to hold onto a dollar so I didn’t have the money to find my own place.
Not long after I had been living with my parents, I noticed something different about my mother. She seemed very sad. I could tell something was wrong but I dared not ask. Fast forward to October 2017. My mother had been sick for days, she couldn’t kept food down and when she could, she barely ate anything. She was a night owl and liked to stay up until 5am. I had to go to bed much earlier because I work first shift. My father liked to go to bed early too, he’s always been an early bird.
Sometime at the end of October my father woke me up at 2am and said “Help me get your mother up”. I was confused and dazed from some OTC sleep aid I had taken the night before. When I walked into the living room, there my mother lay in a pool of her own blood on the floor. To my surprise, I jumped right into action. I said “We can’t move her in this condition. Call 9-1-1.” My dad responded with “She wants up and in her chair”. I am 5 ft. 11 inches, small framed, weighing 150 lbs and my father was even smaller, 6 feet tall and 135 lbs (he has cancer). My mother on the other hand was 6 ft. 2 inches, 180 lbs. Somehow, we managed to scoop her right up and put her in her chair. She said, “I called for you three times but you never came.” I replied, “I’m sorry I was asleep.” Her left eye was swollen shut, he face was purple, blood was everywhere. For whatever reason, I grabbed a washcloth and began trying to wipe the blood from her face, hands, and hair as my dad called 9-1-1. Then things began to get a bit fuzzy for me. I remember cleaning up the blood from the floor but don’t remember getting the cleaning supplies I was using. I remember thinking that she must have been in the floor for a long time because the blood was already clotting. Blood was all over the wall…why was I trying to clean it up? The next thing I remember, the ambulance came and took her away and I was left in the house alone. I felt sick, my mind was whirling, and the image of all that blood kept replaying over and over again in my head. Somehow I made it to my bed to lay down and the room was spinning. Sadness and anger overwhelmed me and I began to scream and punch myself as the words “I called for you three times but you never came” kept echoing in my mind.
A few hours later, I received word that she was transported to the local hospital and then transport to a trauma center two hours away. About an hour or so after I had arrived at the trauma center, the doctor wanted to speak with my father and I. He said, “Your mother admitted to me that she has been a heavy smoker for many years. So we believe it started in her lung and went to her brain. My condolences.” WTF? I asked, “Is she still alive?” He said, “Yes, she was talking to me just now.” I was confused, why the hell was he offering his condolences if she is still alive? Over the next couple of weeks she remain in the hospital, we received only bits and pieces of information. It seemed as though no one wanted to say anything. Getting information was like pulling teeth. We did find out that she had a bunch of broken bones in her face and they had to do some kind of surgery to fix the broken nose. Finally the word my sister received from the doctor was “we are not dealing with a lot of time here.” They released her to come home but she was in no shape to be at home. And when I seen her, I knew she was dying. Hospice was called to assist and they gave me a booklet about the dying process. I read the whole thing. I am grateful that they gave me that booklet because I knew what was coming in the next stage of the process. A few weeks later on November 21st, my mother was dead from brain cancer…my father and I caring for her until her last day.
People kept telling me “I’m sorry for you loss”. What have I lost? Her constant criticism and verbal assaults? Should I be sorry she is no longer here to make me feel like shit of every decision I have ever made? But I suppose, for good or for bad, she was my first teacher.
My father told me he wanted me to speak at her memorial. That should interesting. I told my father my abuser should not be there. “You should tell him not to come”. My father replies, “He is family, he has a right to be there.” I was enraged and before storming out of the room I screamed “The only right he has is to be disemboweled with a dull sickle!” He responds “Just ignore him and he will go away.” I was so angry, but now that I reflect on it, what was I trying to avoid?
The day of her memorial, this is what I came up with: “She used to say her motto was ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say’. Her words were a gut punch sometimes but you always knew where you stood with her. That made her authentic.” That was all I had and it was as nice as I could be. My younger sister talked about when she was young and how she used to sit in her lap and my mother would read to her. I searched my mind but had no memory of her reading to me. And I had no memory of what my sister was describing. I wondered if my sister was lying but knew that wasn’t like her. My cousins had similar stories of spending the night at their aunt’s house. Why did I have no memories of any of this? My older brother sat in silence, never saying a word.
Then I saw HIM…”Chester the molester”. I spent most of my time avoiding him. Then I was in the kitchen when I heard him call my name from behind me. (Now might be a good time to mention that the memorial was held at my parents house.) I felt his hand on my right shoulder and then…blank…nothing…I “woke up” sometime later, standing a few feet from where I was before he had touched my shoulder and my cousin was in my face saying something…I don’t know what. I couldn’t understand her. Her voice sounded distorted and I was confused, trying to get my bearings…”what the hell just happened?” I thought and whether I said it out loud, I do not know. I left her standing there, pushed through people and exiting the room. I call these episodes…which I have had before… out of body experiences. It makes them seem more esoteric and mysterious.
I do not recall shedding a tear over my mother’s death. My sister is convinced that my delayed response is genetic. I don’t think I’ve grieved. What should I be grieving? Should I be sad? What should I be? Maybe I’ve been grieving my whole life for what I thought I deserved but never got from her.
Maybe all I have is this trauma and pain that I cannot let go. If I let it go, I have nothing to write about. It is the source of my inspiration and poetry. And without it, what am I?