Bittersweet Journey- Part Four, Final

That night, after my father has fallen asleep on the couch, I talk to my Mom about her chemotherapy. I tell her that it’s going be hard, that at times it will seem endless, that it’s okay to be scared and to hate it and to not want to do it anymore. To remember that even when she’s very sick and very scared, that she’s saving her life. That we love her. That she has the fight in her to overcome this. That a year isn’t forever. She doesn’t really react. She just promises to remember. It will have to do.

I’m up Monday morning at 330a. Mom has made coffee. Dad and I are trying to stay out of each other’s ways as we get ready to make the hour trip to the local airport. I say good bye to Mom on the porch.

We kiss and say “see you soon” and “had a great time” and “love you”, and no one cries, but it occurs to me that I’m saying good bye to a healthy middle aged Mom. That I will greet an old woman for the rest of her days, a woman who can’t venture too far from home, who can’t get out into the germs and the bad weather. To a mother who is now in need of care and protection. Who is no longer expected to care for and protect. There’s a saddening freedom in the release of the expectation, the absolute, unequivocial end of the war that waged between us, or maybe just in my heart. The hollow acceptance that she’s given me the best she was capable of, for whatever reason, and a sharp and painful reminder that I will someday live without her in whole. The death of hope and denial.

My Dad and I talk quietly as he hurls the car down the expressway, on the way to the airport. I express my gratitude for the camera, I express my concern for Mom, I tell him to call me if it’s too much, to ask for help when he’s overwhelmed. He accepts all of this, but says very little himself. We pull up to the curb and he gets Kermit out of the trunk. He tells me that he loves me, that he’s so glad I came, that he’s proud of me, that he wants me to come back and bring WH. We hug and kiss. I struggle not to cry. He pulls away from the curb as I look back through the doorway. He waves, first at me, and then waves me off. Go, go on, don’t make it hard.

Later, on a dual prop plane, I’m watching the Appalachians wrinkle up from the flatland, like a fuzzy green blanket. The wrinkles get higher, steeper, and I think about curling up between two of them and napping in the folds of the lush green treetops. I see my present, my future, laid out beneath me like a map. The places I go, the people I love. The adult life that I’ve created for myself. That WH and I created for each other.

I try not to think about the time that will pass, the day that will come when WH gets nervous if I wander up the trail. I try not to think about being the matriarch of the family, in spirit or in title.

When I think about my mother, of how hard I’ve tried to earn her love, about the hurt and the pain and the harsh words and the mistakes and the spiteful barbs, I can’t stop the thoughts or the tears. I cry for her maternal, unending, unyielding love- a love I’ve never been sure of or had open access to. I cry for what she’s become, for scars and wigs and cotton stuffed camisoles.

I cry for myself, for my vanity. For my fear. For the time and love I’ve wasted vying for something I will leave this world without knowing. For my father. For what WH and I will face someday. Out of gratitude. For my life. For my husband. For our families. For our friends and our pets and our house and our garden and all of the things that make my life so rich, the things that close around the edges of that hollow place in my heart and make it so small sometimes that I forget it’s there. For Paradise. For watching the sun slip behind a tall ridge, knowing that it still shines down on the valley below.

3 Responses

  1. I’m continuing to think of you and your mom–this must be so hard!

  2. Epic odyssey, I read every single word.

    May your awareness and appreciation for the profound touch everything around you, and that life’s knocks never phase the verybadcat.

  3. nico. Thanks for the kind words. It means so much to me, both that you took the time to read it all and that you get it.


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