We had to be there at some ungodly hour. Of course, there were delays, and we sat for, easily, a half an hour or more. I noticed that she was scratching her arm; I pulled her sleeve up and she had a big patch of hives. She was worried about the surgery. She hadn't expressed her anxiety to me, and it hadn't really occurred to me that something could go seriously wrong. "Ma, are you anxious about this?" I don't even remember her response, if it was dismissive or sheepish. I think I got called to get prepped, and then into the OR.
I woke up feeling queasy, but with my mom at my side. I woke around 1pm, but the didn't release me until 7pm or so, because I was so nauseous. She drove my family's huge Chev.rolet Ca.price down the narrow, fast moving lanes of Storrow Drive, with me still horizontal because I was still queasy. Despite the queasy, I could see her white knuckling it as we headed west out of town.
My dad was out with JK, took her to dinner (at the same local pizza place) while they waited for us to return. I was still pretty out of it when they returned home, and was soon asleep. Had to go back in the next day, a Saturday, so the doctor could check on me and take out the packing. My parents said that they could hear me yell as the doctor yanked the packing, but that was the worst pain I suffered from the operation. I was nauseous all weekend. My mom and JK took turns shaking the diet coke for me, and the ginger ale, too, so they would be nice and flat. Crackers for my stomach.
My last memory of that weekend, is my mom sitting on the side of my bed Sunday afternoon. I was still queasy, and my mom was holding my hand or brushing the hair from my face as I was laying on my stomach in bed. Petting me somehow. From the living room, my dad called to her, "Sharon? Sharon, it's time, we have to get going." It was a a four-hour drive back home. She didn't want to go. She looked at me, looked at my dad as he approached my bedroom door to say good bye, but didn't anything. She held on to me, and hesitated. "Sharon? We gotta go." She kissed me and told me they would call to check on me when they got home. JK reassured her that she had plenty of diet coke for me, and was well practiced in the shaking. My dad said his goodbyes and they left.
It just occurred to me that 5 years later, the roles would be reversed. One of the most painful memories of my mother's illness. It was a weekend in April, and JK drove me down and stayed with me at my parents' house. That weekend, my mother was released from a world renown cancer center in NYC, with the head of gynecological oncology telling my dad that there was nothing more that they could do for her. She came home with a wheelchair and an oxygen tank. Very tired, very quiet. A and I fought a lot and it was overall a very difficult weekend.
Sunday afternoon, we had to head back. I went in and sat with my mom on her and my father's bed, and held her hand. We talked for a little bit. JK came in and kissed her good bye. Mom had given her some forsythia cuttings, I think. I told her I had to get going. And she just kept holding my hand. She didn't say anything, just looked at our hands, and kept holding on. I told her again, that I had to go. I kissed her a bunch of times, and we said good bye. And I had to physically take my hand out of hers.
JK and I started crying by the time we got to the end of my street. It wasn't until later, weeks later, that I realized she wanted to ask me not to go. It pains me that I couldn't understand. That it was to hard to even conceptualize.
A couple of weekends later, we brought in hospice. They came in on a Monday; it took longer than anticipated to make everything official -- I was going to head back up to Boston afterward. It annoyed me that the nurse spoke so loudly to my mother, like she wasn't all there, like she couldn't hear or understand. She could. She did.
The nurse, or whoever it was, told us that she likely would not last long. Had she considered a DNR (Do Not Resucitate) order. We hadn't talked about that, as a family yet. Mom asked me when my brother would be home, she wanted us all to talk about this. I asked her if she wanted me to stay this week. She said yes.
It was her last week. Mom died at 9:15 am on Friday, May 4, 2001. We were all gathered around her. I had stayed in her room all night (we took turns looking after her) and her breathing had become very noisy, what we'd later learn was the death rattle. It was a sound I thought I'd never forget, though I think I've blocked it now.
After my mother was gone, A suggested we share happy memories of Mom, to shake some of the pain of what we'd experienced. I couldn't think of anything of the top of my head, but others did. Then my sister and brother (and his girlfriend) and C and I took the dog and went to a local park by a lake and ate bagels. It was a gorgeous day, one she would have liked to spend working on her garden.
The last thing my mom ate was a few spoonfuls of a McDo.nald's sundae (hot fudge, no nuts) -- she suddenly had an appetite and my dad was so excited he got 6 of them (some with hot fudge, some just plain) in hopes that she'd continue to want to eat. It was a treat that we sometimes got as kids -- my mom *loved* ice cream, and surprisingly, enjoyed this too. Occasionally, on the spur of the moment, we would go through the drive-thru for sundaes.
I have a lot of memories of my mom -- lots of happy ones: my college graduation, the evening that C asked for their blessing on our engagement ("On one condition: you call us Sharon and Bob.") Once when we were kids, my brother and father were out of town on some kind of camping trip, and she took A and me to Fri.endly's to have ice cream for dinner.
Below is a picture JK took a few years ago of a flower in my mother's garden, a Rose of Sharon. I hope you enjoy it. And if you happen to have some ice cream today, if you happen to think of it, send up a spoonful for her.
Love you, Mamelah.