Embrace the life and memories, a cousin wrote to me. Embrace the moon and good thoughts of life.
Sound advice. Good advice. And like all of the advice I receive, I try. I push out from this cocoon of sadness and hurt. Grasp at the life, the memories, the moon and beyond. But it is so damn hard right now. So damn hard.
I try to embrace the life, and I am met by a wall of pain and agony. From a thousand miles away, I can feel my mother’s pain. As she struggles in a hospital room, gasping for air, struggling for more minutes, more days. Struggling for five more days. That’s all that she wants. Five more days, until her babies can make it down to see her, to say goodbye, so she continues the treatments that will keep her alive, waving off the pain medications that will ease the agony and ease her from this world into the world of memories, that they might be kinder, gentler, more forgiving.
I’ve been here before. With her. With others. Begging them, praying to them, to let go. Allow our memories to catch you and hold you tight. Let go, and allow us to catch you.
I try to embrace the memories, and I am met by a wall of pain and agony. And madness.
It wasn’t so different than it is now. 16 years ago. In my apartment, at the scene of my greatest defeat, my greatest failure. It was the scene of my greatest sin. I brought my mom to my apartment, to fix her, to save her, to wrest her from her madness. I was going to help her help herself.
I sometimes think that it was my arrogance and my pride that brought me there. I sometimes think it was a broken thing struggling to save himself with no idea how to do it.
All writing teachers will tell you to never talk about a person’s eyes, never try to describe what is going on by writing about the eyes. It is one of the greatest sins of the writer, that the eyes cannot reveal anything.
But I remember my mother’s eyes from 16 years ago. Her entire world had collapsed in on itself, into a tiny pinprick of madness, a single thought. It was an old star collapsing in on itself to create a black hole. In her eyes, as she sat on the sofa, or walked through the apartment, you could tell by her eyes that she was not walking in this world. The agony revealed some kind of nightmarish other reality where she existed, locked away in her own private hell.
When I saw her eyes, I could feel the waves of madness and fear and pain rolling off of her, and I knew I was lost. There was nothing I could do. And so we both fell that time. I tried to grasp at fingers to hold her up, drag her back into this world, but it was the hand that she held to her chest as she slipped further and further into her personal hell. Like a great sinking ship that goes under, when she went, the force of her passing into the depths took me with her.
There was nothing that I could do then as there is nothing that I can do now.
We made choices. I chose to buy a business. I chose to get married and get a mortgage. Maybe the choices were about me entering more firmly into this world?
My mom made choices as well. In a fractured family, in failing health, she chose to move to Florida, a thousand miles away from me, my step-father, my brother and sister, her grandson and all of her support and safety nets and nearby hospitals. I knew when she moved that the end would probably play out this way.
I am staring into her madness again, being buffeted by it, storm tossed.
Rolling waves of force and pain and agony travel to me like a tsunami from Orlando, with the earliest hints of what is to come lapping at my ankles. I stand in that surf and feel the undertow, tugging at me, pulling at me. As the water gets deeper.
I go about my day.
Let go of the past, I am told. More good advice. Forgive and move on. You cannot be angry at the choices that were made.
Yes. Yes I can. I can be pissed off. I can be enraged. I can embrace the only thing that I know that might keep me safe. That might help keep me sane. Anger. Because she will pass from this world, but I have to stick around. I have built something here, and I cannot allow it to crumble by entering the world that she created.
But my mommy is in agony. Dropping everything, ignoring everything, casting off the ties of husband and father and business owner and employer and tenant and financier and everything else to be only a son. Can I not give her that? Here at the end? Isn’t she entitled to that? Can I not find the strength to balance one last wish, to gather up the pieces of the fractured family, to rush head long into your ending world and perhaps help ease you from the agony?
No. I cannot. And the “no” reverberates through my being. Amplified and echoing to return to me with guilt and self loathing of a son who has failed.
I know. I know. I know. And maybe I will accept it one day.
But I have to get to work. My accounts and my creditors don’t give a shit about something happening in Florida. My credit card companies don’t really care about it either. The weather didn’t care obviously.
Five more days until I can fly down there. Five more days of regular updates on my mother’s pain that will fall like hammers upon me.
But I need to make it through today. And tomorrow. And Wednesday. Then Thursday. Maybe by then? But then Friday. Definitely Saturday. If you were around the corner I could do for you what I did for my friend, what her son did for her, and sleep by your hospital bed. If I was an employee as opposed to an employer I could go to my boss and beg them to let me go for a week.
And if the moon was kind, she would blind me and deafen me and fill my head with the softest of memories and the kindest of thoughts.
But that is not how this one is playing out.