THE CALM DAY
My mother told me when I was in my twenties that she had me to spite her parents. They had her life all planned out for her, so she got pregnant. She had married my father after knowing him three weeks, after he had already signed up for the Navy, and would not see me until I was one.
The mother who told me this, who burdened me with this confession, was to start drinking after twelve years of sobriety, and become a meth addict street whore whose husband stuck around because he was the guardian payee on her disability checks.
Years later, I helped her to die. She was such a tough old bird, as they say. She had drank and cranked herself through every rehab, hospital and retirement home in the city of Tucson, and finally landed in one where they took all her meds away and gave her one: Haldol. She had been on Lithium and Lorazepam most of her life. Within a week she was psychotic. She would not be released from this last of the last places in her life.
I flew in from California. There had been times before this when I was summoned, when her time was near. But she always came back. Now the lung cancer had metastasized to her brain, and she had landed in the care of a psychiatrist who was saving money on meds at the expense of those of us who cared if my mother must add the horror of psychosis to the bottom rung of her agonizing decline.
My step-father sat at the foot of the bed, obviously worn out, at a loss. I could tell he was trying to appear more supportive and "there" for her than he really was. His exit from our family had already begun.
My mother thought we were trapped by an avalanche in Alaska, and that I was bringing the bulldozer to get us all out. "Boy, we're in a mess." At the very end of her life my mother was still expecting a miracle to break through, an unstoppable power to get her through the day, a fierce wall of momentum to push past all that had landed on her in this world, burying her.
I visited with her, staying after my sister left. I spent time with her, not needing to speak. I left and brought her back an illicit (for a diabetic) icy tropical juice concoction that gave her poor taste buds a few minutes of heaven before returning to the warm Jello water they served at every meal for drinks.
Finally, she turned to me, as though a mother, my mother, reaching out her hand, describing how similar we were in some small detail, smiling at me. Birds of a feather.
Pow. I put her down.
"It is time for you to die, mother." My voice was neutral, no venom in it. A revelation to us both, a spontaneous brutality.
She looked liked she'd been slapped hard, tears sprouting into her eyes. I was as surprised as she was, but without the sting to a morale built upon denial, the trap of a stance that turned away, forever keeping a shoulder to the shadows, dooming her to a complete lack of authenticity, her only society that of manipulation.
I did not look at my step-father. The room was dead quiet.
It was a passenger of sorts that appeared in my place and did what needed to be done. Ruthless. Cold. How many years had she stood just behind me; her line and delivery calm when the calm day at the bedside finally arrived?
I knew it so well, that my mother did not know what it was like for me to go to bed every night knowing that my mother was suffering horrors that would be unbearable if they were only one night. That night.
Every night. Every day. My mother was suffering, she had the humanity torn from her, her soul dying and long dead, and yet she kept on. Day after day. Suffering. And there was not one thing I could do for her. I died a little with her every day, every night, year after year.
The day came. I was the one. I had no idea it was going to happen until that very moment.
I put her down. I put her in the ground. She died a few days later.
Las Vegas NV USA
7 April 2015