The Journal

It’s been over a month now.  Doesn’t seem quite possible.  The days lack a common thread running through them to lend the feeling that they all belong in the same year, let alone the same month.  Wake up one day with sisters and nephews and a house with furniture in it, go to bed with the sisters well on their way back to where they belong, the house empty, and a desk clerk at the hotel for company.  How can these things possibly be reconciled?

I’ve been in my journal, or at least I’ve been trying.  The problem is that I want to keep writing about her physicality.  Over and over: her lips, that last breath, the rickety breaths that came before it, dripping water into her mouth, the idea of someone dressing her body, a random fear that they didn’t put her bra on her – really, what self-respecting lady would go into whatever comes next with out the proper foundation garments? What else needs to be remembered, or integrated?

The lined notebook we found with notes about the dog…  where they walked, for how long, water, progress on getting the damn beast to come when called.

Postcards from her grand-kids, adopted and otherwise.  A card from me thanking her for being the one I called at 5 in the morning.

Making her oatmeal from home because it was better than the stuff at the hospital, knowing she’d have a bite or two at most.

Lying to her about her second seizure…  she thought it was because she hadn’t been eating and as long as she thought that, she ate better.  What good would it have been to remind her that the brain tumors weren’t going to let go of her?

Maybe The Boss, but words aren’t big enough for that one.  She made employee of the month last month.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones singing her praises.

There is the last day Mom was there.  The last things she said.  The last thing she responded to, at least when I was the one speaking, was a message from her drama-mamma sister.  I wish I’d had something better for her to squeeze my hand over, but it seemed important to the Aunt and by then, what the living have to live with seemed almost as important as what the dying had to die with.

She wanted to be pretty.  Something about that makes me want to burst into tears all over again.  She wanted her hair to look nice.

And there you have it, cancer embroidering her brain like needlepoint gone horribly wrong, she was down to the rawest, deepest nerves: her mother, her need for approval. How do you make it all fit together?  You can’t.  At the end, we’re as naked as we were at the beginning.

Between, the number of things that can be true all at the same time defies my ability to keep up.  Layers of my mother piled on each other.  A woman who carried a heavy burden of shoulds.  A fighter.  As unlikely as she was to admit it, a woman who worked her whole life to be defined on her own terms, not through her connection to family.  A gifted educator.  A kind woman with an alcoholic’s blackout rages.  The kind of woman who gave up way too much for external approval and didn’t even know what she was losing in the exchange.

So I have what I have: these things that don’t belong together and a desperate need to integrate the last month so the gap between the last day I worked in December and the first day I worked in January doesn’t feel so much like some mad story I just made up.

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The Journal

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