17 February 2006

One year ago

Exactly one year ago right this minute, I was in the Boston Greyhound station, impatiently waiting for my connecting bus to New York City. Frantically rushing to my mom's side, because after a few uncertain weeks of tests and questions, the doctors had finally honed in on ovarian cancer as the cause of Mom's illness. The oncologist was due to visit Mom the next morning at 6:30, and I had to be there. Science writer, daughter, friend, I had responsibilities. 

My bus deposited me at Port Authority at 4:30 a.m., and I snagged a taxi uptown, dragging a suitcase that was weighted with the uncertain length of my stay. Mom had already apprised the Lenox Hill security staff of my unusual arrival time, so in I went at 5:15, when the hospital was still and gray with dawn.

Thank God I got there when I did. Other than some annoying symptoms, Mom was fully herself. She'd been crossword-puzzling, watching the city from her windowside chair, chattering with her roommate about the other people on the floor, red hair as resplendent as it could be under the hospital circumstances.

She waited for me expectantly in her chair. I'll never forget the sight of her leaning towards the door, her face yearning. I was yearning too. As we hugged, her mother-scent enveloped me and I felt young in a heady moment. That was all too fleeting, because with the arrival of the oncologist, I became mastermind interpreter and keeper of the medical details...roles I held firmly, with fire in my eyes, until the day she died.
That day came too damned soon. The woman I first saw at Lenox Hill, while slightly impaired physically, was cognitively and emotionally my mother. However, once chemo treatments began, everything about Mom faded and paled...except for one thing: the keen, unbearable pain. Soon she would never sit in that windowside chair again. Soon she would require a walker to get from her bed to a commode. Soon she would not be able to get to the commode in time at all.
I did not intend for this entry to become a catalog of Mom's illness, because having lived it, I would just as soon erase it. An impossibility: I will bear the images, the memories, and the extreme emotions of those three months forever. But what I was trying to convey was the rapidity of my mother's decline. Bizarrely, in the midst of it, each day crawled, twisted, and distorted. However, with that year thankfully in the rearview, I now find myself stunned at how quickly Mom's sickness became a life-threatening wrestling match. And how stacked against us it all was--when I was in New York, that thought truly didn't sink in. I pushed every resource at the fight because I believed.
I am a fan of believing. In fact, despite the overarching, soul-threatening suckiness that was 2/05-2/06, I remain an optimist. Kind of my trademark, I guess. And it's exactly what Mom wanted from me: not only in the hospital, but throughout our entwined lives. Hard to convey what a profound realization that is for me. Makes me cry, surfacing it.
When this blog began to take shape, iTunes tossed this song at me. It says absolutely everything that I'm feeling on this unwanted anniversary (not to mention the wrenching minor-key accompaniment). 
Hello, how are you.
Have you been alright,
through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights?
That's what I'd say, I'd tell you everything,
if you'd pick up that telephone.
Hey, how you feelin'?
Are you still the same?
Don't you realize the things we did, we did
were all for real--not a dream,
I just can't believe
they've all faded out of view.
Doo wah, doobie doobie wah, doo wah doo lang
Blue days, black nights, doo wah doo lang
I look into the sky
(the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
And I wonder why
(the little things are finally coming true)
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight
Okay, so no one's answering,
Well, can't you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer....
I'll just sit tight, through shadows of the night,
Let it ring for evermore....
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight
From 1982 on, my relationship with Mom was primarily conducted by phone, pretty much daily. We were each other's checkpoints. 
First Mom blog. My friends, this is a huge milestone for me. I miss her to the point of tears every day and had begun to fear I'd never get anything said. Muse, inspiration, whatever it is...now I know the words will come. The other thing that Mom always expected of me.

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