On the day my mother was inducted into home hospice care, after the oxygen machine was delivered, and the table on wheels positioned over her bed, she asked me to sit down and go over a few things.
She said she woke up every morning, not thinking of death but gradually, as the day wore on, realized she was not going anywhere. Her cancer was in Stage #4.
Inoperable, untreatable, unceasing, spreading and unstoppable.
She asked me to hold her hand. And we spoke of what I would do with the apartment after she died. And I told her how I would keep the photo albums and place them in my house for posterity. She said that my brother and his wife might want her sofa. I knew they didn’t. But I kept silent and listened.
She wanted to know if the money was holding out, and she warned about overspending.
I broke down, as I do often, sometimes for much lesser reasons, and told her that I would write about her, and those sacrifices she made; the long, hard, uncompensated work of a woman who was a wife and mother for 54 years and often neglected her own pleasures waiting and tending to others.
Does it count for something if you remember your mother throwing a ball back and forth with your retarded brother? Running up and down the stairs carrying laundry? Screaming at me for crashing a car? Telling my dying father that she had so much to say to him.
She told me she did not want me to cry and she tried to steer the conversation back to where I was going that night, and what I might do on the way back to Van Nuys.
She spoke next of what she might wear when she was dead and laid out. A Bathing Suit is what she proposed. But then I reminded her that she would be cremated and there would be no casket and no outfit to consider.
Calmly and tearfully, eloquently and closely we tread on an event not far in the future, a dark and silent condition, irreversible.
That most feared moment, interrupting the pressing banalities and bills of life.
The Young and the Restless tivoed.
Red grapes on sale at Ralph’s.
Can you put another pillow behind my head?
Can you get a glass of water for me?
No I don’t want oxygen!
When will the landlord be told that his tenant had died?
Why should you care who visited your mother as she lay ill?
For now, the woman who gave birth to me still spoke.