essence of my mother

Last night Mom was wired. It was as if she’d taken the wrong medicine, too much of one or none at all. At times she was speaking in full sentences, though not making any sense. I think, perhaps, she was seeing things that I couldn’t see. She was amped, but not unhappy. She’d stitch together a few words, pointing this way and that, clap her hands, punch the air a time or two with a growl, then turn to me and ask, in a semi-coherent way, “Does that make any sense?” At one point she asked me if she was crazy.

“We’re all crazy, Mom, especially him,” as I pointed to my brother Matt. She smiled and laughed in agreement, then squeezed my leg, kissed my cheek and rested her head on my shoulder. Later she turned to me out of the blue and said, “I'm not sure you know what you are doing.” I chuckled, thinking she might be right.

All day long I’d had a nagging headache, perhaps from too much coffee or not enough. I abandoned my evening bourbon hoping that might help but it seemed to make me feel worse. I went to sleep with the chills and woke at midnight sweating. As my head pounded I thought about how Mom must feel at times and wondered if her panic attacks are in any way painful, wondered if they were Alzheimer's-induced or drug-induced. I thought about Calvin and worried about his benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, which at some point he’ll have to endure again, and which I imagine include nasty headaches and behavioral changes. I remembered my dad and the pain and nausea he suffered from bone marrow cancer and chemotherapy, and how the morphine stripped him of his essence.

Mom’s essence survives in her tiny, eighty-five-year-old, 115 pound self. Though it is dwindling and sometimes fleeting, I can see it in her eyes, feel it in her embrace, see it in her smile, hear it in her laugh. I'm leaving Mom tonight and, as always, I'm experiencing a mix of emotions. I'll hate to say goodbye knowing it could be the last time I see her, but I'll be relieved to get back to my family and to my usual routine. I'll miss the warmth of San Diego, my long walks along the flowering waterfront, miss sitting next to Mom for hours holding her hand, but I'll be glad to hug Calvin, kiss Michael and take Nellie for long walks in the fields. I'll worry about Mom and Matt and Stacey and wonder when I'll  be able to (somewhat) easily return. But at least I'll have had a handful of days basking in the essence of my mother, knowing that image will be lasting, if not in her then hopefully in me.

No comments:

Post a Comment