Hey God, She’s Dying. Where Are You?

I’m still coming to terms with the idea that my mom is dying. It hardly seems possible. I mean, I knew, eventually, she would die. But death felt faraway. It still feels far away. If she is dying, it’ll take time. My mom was in OK shape, physically, before her sudden decline; she was decently hydrated, and like I said, the woman has a knack from coming back from the brink. She’s done it before. Why couldn’t she do it again? Never mind the fact that she hasn’t really eaten in six days … just a few bites of sorbet and sips of water through a plastic pipette.

It doesn’t feel like she’s dying. I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to sit by her bedside until she finally passes away. Maybe I should, but what is the point? Nothing is happening. She’s lying there, corpse-like. Sometimes her eyes will open, and then she’ll fall asleep again — eyes still open. I can tell she’s sleeping because she starts snoring. I don’t know what to do with myself, so I squeeze out a large dollop of citrus-ginger scented hand lotion and quietly massage her arms and hands. I say a few prayers, tell her it’s OK to leave this world. And then I shake my fist at God.

Really, you’re going to drag this out to the bitter end, huh? 

It has been ten years — give or take — since I noticed something was wrong with my mother. That’s more than 3,000 days. And here we are. Waiting. Waiting on Him. He must be Latin, just like us… we’re always late.

My mother’s family is very religious. Everyone is praying for her. And if they’re not praying for her, they’re thinking of her. There are a lot of thoughts and prayers are floating around … “You’re in my thoughts,” “Recite this prayer,” “Tell her we love her.” I’ve also been told that God will take her when he’s ready. I realize he’s very busy these days, what with mankind slaughtering one another (in His name), but surely he can move her up the list… I see it sort of like a transplant list. He’s transplanting her from Earth to Heaven. But this dilly-daddling is total bullshit. I find it difficult to believe in a loving, kind God when a) he takes his time escorting her through the pearly gates of heaven and b) this is how he saw fit to treat her these last ten years. With a terribly grotesque disease that has rotted out her brain. My mother who devoted herself to her church and to God. Frankly, I’m surprised the woman never became a nun. A life of prayer would have suited her, I think.

So here we are waiting. Waiting for her to bounce back and resume a life of nothing or waiting for her to die. Peacefully, I hope. And in a timely fashion.

Wishing Her Away

I started this blog to chronicle and share my experience with my mom and her disease… but the more I wrote, the more it forced me to examine my own relationship with my mom (and myself)—before she became my demented mom.

It’s easy to lose sight of the “before” when the present is always is so incredibly, in-your-face-front-and-center present… that probably explains my own memory loss when it comes to my mom… for whatever reason, I can’t fully remember what she was like before she became sick, before the disease stole her away… my memories are mostly feelings… of course, occasionally, somethings pulls me back in time and I catch a glimpse of our mother/daughter dynamic… that’s always weird and painful because you also see how you were…

Last Friday, we were sitting at my dad’s dining table looking at old pictures… Jon was snapping photos of my incredibly awkward stage and uploading them to Facebook… we were laughing and listening to dad share stories… stories about my grandpa and how he was offered a 2nd Lieutenant position because he could speak Italian… I told my dad that after this last trip to Italy, I decided I was going to take Italian at the community college, I suggested he join me…

………………………………and then I remembered Independence Day… the movie.

I think it was 1996. ID4 was a big deal, I could hardly wait to see it. My dad wanted to see it too. My mother was never into “scary” movies; not 10 minutes into it, she stormed out of Saving Private Ryan—dad was pissed. This summer was different. My mom was going to Ecuador for a month or two. I don’t remember if I was going to meet up with her later (we traveled separately for two reasons: 1- she would stay longer than I would and 2- she stressed me out when we flew—turbulence for my mom meant the plane was going down). My cousin was getting married in Minnesota that August and I was in the wedding party; I was probably staying home, getting ready for the Minnesota trip and working at the local movie theatre.

I remember feeling happy that my mom was leaving, and that my dad and I would finally get to hang out—just the two of us. My mom and I never really had deep conversations from what I recall; I think maybe we were culturally divided to some extent… I was an American kid being raised by an Ecuadorian mother… our differences were stark. I couldn’t always relate to my mom, I’m sure she felt the same frustrations… how do I communicate with this foreign child of mine? My dad was different. My American father. More like me. But then again, my dad traveled a lot for work and he wasn’t always home… so maybe it was just having someone else to talk to… that, and I felt like I could talk to him on a different level… maybe deeper, or maybe it was as simple as wanting someone else to talk to

As an only child, I felt lonely a lot.

I guess I hadn’t settled into being OK with just me.

The morning of our movie date, my dad took my mother to the airport… that night we went out to eat and caught the movie. I remember telling him on the way home something about my mom… his response was something like, “she’s your mother…” I can’t remember what was said or what I said… I was 19. I think I just wanted my mom to get me, to understand me and that I was not like her in many ways.

I once had a therapist tell me that when it comes to mothering, there are different behaviors or something… there are mothers who are incredibly nurturing when the child is a baby or toddler; their ability to connect is deep; but when that child transitions into adulthood, something happens… a shift. A miscommunication. The mother doesn’t perhaps know how to mother an their adult child. I don’t really remember how she explained it, but that seemed to be our relationship… my mother was an incredibly warm and loving parent, very nurturing. She would do anything she could for me. Even when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, we would spend time together and go shopping—it was our thing, perhaps our way of communicating. But we never reached that “friendship…” stage… where you could talk and confide, share secrets, talk about life, it’s meaning, how to cope and deal with life, men, careers, life, family…. we were clearly mother and daughter. Very black and white. No crossing of lines… I don’t know, maybe that “friendship” or blurring of lines is what happens as you get older.

I wouldn’t know… I started losing my mom when I was 27 or 28.

Fast forward.

When I asked my dad to join me; it struck me as ironic that so long ago, I wished away my mother… and the god’s listened to me. They actually listened.

They took away my mother.

So there I was, 15 years later (almost one week away from the day), sitting at that dining table, looking at old photographs with a glass of wine, realizing what I had done.

I opened Pandora’s Box.

Flickr pic by Big Fat Rat