Today is one of those awkward, uncomfortable days.
Her sister died 4 years ago today.
They’re probably still laughing about that.
Their sister-in-law died on the 16th, ten years after my mom.
Three family death anniversaries in five days. Happy Holidays, y’all.
December used to be my favorite month, but as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, now it’s filled with memories of loss.
But as I perused On This Day on Facebook, I read other posts I’d made on this day, and saw this one from last year.
I can’t recall at the moment who coined that phrase, although I think I know. But it’s an interesting challenge.
The last conversation I had with my mother was an argument about having her intubated. She was adamantly opposed to having a machine breathe for her, and had extracted a promise from me and my brother years ago to never put her on a machine. But she had just had fairly major surgery involving amputation of two toes, and a venous bypass to save her leg. She was on heavy painkillers, which when combined with her emphysema, severely depressed her breathing. She needed to be temporarily intubated to give just a little extra support while she was on the pain drugs.
Our choice was to let her suffer for a week under the pain, or be intubated for about the same time as they weaned her off of both the drugs and the machine.
We chose to intubate her.
So that night, as she woke up from the anesthetic, she started fighting the tube, and shaking her head at me. I kept explaining to her with tears in my eyes that she needed the tube, it was just for a little while, and without it, she’d be in too much pain. We argued like that for probably close to half an hour, even as I was trying to leave.
Mom lived in Marietta, and I lived two-and-a-half hours away in Columbus. I had used up all of my vacation time, and had to get home and get back to work the next day.
I had to leave my mother alone in a hospital bed, both of us in tears.
That was the last time I spoke to her.
I don’t know that I’ve ever forgiven myself for the way I left her there.
How crass is it to leave your mother like that so you can go back to work? Was I so focused on money that I couldn’t afford one more day? Or two?
I console myself by saying I didn’t have any more days off, so I never really tried to work with my employer or client. The client would have been fine with me taking the time off, I know. My employer? Much less so. When I asked for time off a year or so later to help deal with my mother-in-law’s illness, they gave me two week’s pay and pointed to the door.
She had a stroke not long after, then died four days before Christmas.
I’ve wondered in the years since what she thought about during the days after I left. Did she wonder why I did that to her? Could she understand how agonizing the decision was for me?
Did she forgive me?
As the fog of age progresses, the memories of the better times with my parents become harder to recall, overshadowed by the more recent recollections of the pain surrounding their loss. I need to put more effort into restoring those memories before they’re completely lost. Intuitively, I know I have merry memories of my folks.
I just need to unearth them again.
And I need to make sure my kids have plenty of merry memories of me.