The phone rang and she answered it. It was him. She hated him from almost the first time she met him, but it was her mother’s choice not hers. She wished she had the guts to tell mom about the night he walked her out to the car and caressed her backside in the dark.
His words brought her into the moment.
“Your mother is in the hospital. She’s dying.”
Writing down the hospital and room number she hung up. She thought about how hard it would be to face him at the hospital and maintain her composure. She prayed for God to give her the grace to be amicable with the man. Could she? She would do her best.
Her husband drove her to the hospital and held her hand as they entered the building. Walking into the intensive care wing they were directed to her mother’s room. She was not prepared for what she would see. But then, is anyone really prepared for the death of a parent?
Groggy recognition, “Hi Honey, are you pregnant?”
“No. Just fat.”
Her mom dozed off, which gave her time to really study her and not feel so uncomfortable. For all the world she looked like a potato laying there, with toothpicks for arms and legs. Her skin was sallow looking and her face was all scrunched and green in between her eyes. Green, she never imagined that was possible. Somewhere in the past few years mom apparently had given up dying her hair. It was now salt and pepper colored, but more to the white side really. She had always liked her mother’s hair. Tubes out, IV’s in, she realized her mother was a mess.
Over the last few years she had tried to be close, but since Mom had married the man it had been difficult. He drank too much and soon so did she. She didn’t blame him for her mothers’ drinking, being an alcoholic is a choice, and she knew that.
What she hated him for was how he treated her when her mother needed him most.
Her mother fell about a year ago, when painting the ceiling, and had broken her leg. He took her to the hospital and they put on a temporary cast because he didn’t have insurance or supposedly the cash to pay for it. He brought her home, put her in a recliner, put diapers on her and left her there on the chair. He gave her a list of phone numbers of the bars he frequented, a bottle of water and a bottle of vodka and left each day. He came home for lunch and dinner and presumably to change her and feed her until her leg healed.
…Now as a reader you may think her daughter should have taken her out of this situation and helped her along. She tried. She called social services and was informed that her mother was an adult and therefore could not be removed unless her mother wanted to go. She explained about the leg and the lack of medical attention and was told that they would look into it. Several more calls were made and again she was told they would look into it…
They never did.
Tuesday: There was her mother laying in ICU, and dying from complications of Alcoholism. She wanted to cry, but found no tears.
Wednesday: At some point since her last visit they had put a tube down mom’s throat making it impossible for her to talk, though she tried. It was piteous.
Thursday: She came to visit and found that someone on the staff had taken white bandaging tape, and pulling her mothers hair straight up to the top of her head, they had used it to tape it out of their way. She wondered why someone would be so cruel? Yes, OK, so she’s dying and won’t be looking in the mirror, but what about the family who comes to see her? It was ugly and sad-looking.
Friday: It was a bad day for her mother. She watched her struggle to hold on and begged her to fight, to live, and to get well.
Saturday: Each night she’d visited and on Saturday she asked if she could spend the night with her mother. They hesitated, but then agreed to let her stay. She went home, got into comfortable clothes, brought snacks (she would not touch), a book (she would not read), and a CD player with a Maurice Sklar disk to play for her
Her Mother’s father had played the violin. His style was the Irish influenced hill music he’d grown up with in Kentucky. Maurice Sklar was not the same style, but the music was so soothing and beautiful that on some level she hoped it would ease and comfort her mother.
She set up the CD player and inserted the disk. The sound was turned down low, but in the intensive care center the music still traveled. Several of the staff stopped by to comment on how beautiful it was. She was glad they were enjoying it because it would have broken her heart had she been requested to turn it off.
During the night the lights were turned down low. Nurses came on the half hour to check her mother’s vital signs. Eerily, it seemed that as each hour ticked away her heart beat slowed by one beat.
Around one in the morning her mother became fretful, and it was then that she realized that it was wrong of her to ask her to hang on. Hang on for what? She was so very damaged and ill. Leaning over she grasped her mother’s hand.
“Mom,” she whispered, “I was being selfish to ask you to stay. I’m sorry, don’t fight it anymore.”
At six-thirty in the morning a pastor and friend of her mother came to call. She introduced herself and walking to her bedside offered up a prayer for her.
Seven-thirty, he showed up. “Hello Honey, I’m here.” At the sound of his voice the monitors began beeping and her mother’s heart rate really began to fall. She lurched and trembled, her heart stopped, then started again. This continued for a minute or more and was alarming to watch.
“Momma, please! Don’t fight it, just let go, it’s OK, just let go!” she cried out. Reaching for her hand, she took it and held on.
The nurse noticed her panic at the monitor’s sound as it mirrored the beat of her mother’s heart stopping and starting. He quickly reached over and turned it off.
Then her mother was gone.
She felt angry about not being able to help her mother in life, yet she was grateful to at least able to hold her hand as she left this world. She looked at the man standing there, and wanted to hate him, but found she could not. She watched as he reached into his shirt pocket and brought out a slip of paper.
Turning to the Doctor he thanked him and began to read off a list he’d made of each of the nurses and other staff by name. He was thanking each of them for the care they had shown to her mother.
She observed him there in the room full of people, and realized he was alone. It was then she recalled that she’d asked God to give her the grace to be civil to him. In answer to her prayer she’d been humbled…
Now she would weep.