EIGHTEEN months old
If you are resisting something, you are feeding it. Any energy you fight, you are feeding. If you are pushing something away, you are inviting it to stay.
-Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul
I went to the mall a few days ago with Everett. He just sat in his stroller, snacking on food while I shopped at Forever 21, my for whatever reason, favorite store. I bought a new scarf, a few sweaters, and a surprisingly functional tote backpack. (I’ve come a long way since my black Gap jogger days.)
On our way to leave the doors of the mall, I let him out of the stroller to run around–he must’ve thought he instantly became king. He trotted along a few feet away from me, looking over his shoulder to keep a watchful eye on his mama.
Refusing to stop his fun and having time to waste, we stayed, and I took him on the clear glass elevator to get to the first floor. He had a face of astonishment as he watched the world around him go down down down, looking at me and pointing and saying, Ooooooo!
The elevator opens right up and onto the food court, and the smell of Chinese-style chicken wafted my nose, immediately making me think of you and all our times sitting there, eating after a shopping trip. I looked for our frequented spot, where the turquoise-topped chairs remained the same, while simultaneously searching for the sampling kung pao chicken lady.
I can still see the orange fried chicken clumps, on top of fluffed white rice. I can still taste the extra packs of soy sauce we’d douse our meals with, remembering how you’d tear the corner of the plastic packet off with your teeth and still manage to look pretty while doing it.
The last time I was at that food court, I was being interviewed for a clothing company called Buckle. It was the “cool” store during my senior year of high school, the place I bought all my Lucky Brand clothes in attempts of being a high maintenance hippie.
My possible future manager asked me question after question, and in between trying to give the right answers, I just wanted to speak out and say, Are we done yet? I’ve got to get home. My mother is dying and I don’t have time. Am I hired or not?
You were sick at home, and it was only a matter of time at that point, like we were all just waiting for it to happen.
I never think about those last few weeks. I never really think of you being sick. It all happened so fast, that the small span of time can easily be swept into the back corners of my brain.
But because I felt so mentally stuttered when getting off that elevator and smelling that damn chicken, I knew something inside me needed released.
So when we finally got home and Everett went down for his afternoon nap, I went and found the journal I was keeping around the time of that interview–around the time you died, wanting to face this possible resistance, and therefore, give it permission to leave.
August 1, 2008
Well, cheer camp is all over.
I drove home with Stephanie and her parents, and while in the car, Nana called me to say the cancer had spread to Mom’s spinal cord and brain. That’s why she’s recently been acting mean and confused and upset.
I hung up the phone, looked out the backseat driver window, and cried quietly. Steph’s mom reassured me that this would just be another treatment and that Mom would do great, just as she has been doing. I wanted to believe Janice. I wanted to believe Mom’s best friend. But I couldn’t.
When I got home, Grandma was waiting for me. After I showered and ate some lunch, she took me to the hospital to see Mom and Dad. I will never forget exiting the elevator, turning the corner, and walking into the communal waiting room where Dad and Allison were already waiting. Mom’s room was twenty or so feet behind them and her door was open. All I could see were her legs, tucked tightly under a light pink hospital blanket.
Just by looking at Daddy’s face, I knew something awful was happening. For a split second, before he said anything, I thought she had already died. I was so confused, I couldn’t think straight or crooked or in any way shape or form.
I was so scared and felt like I couldn’t breathe. Dad talked me through it, and then sat Allison and I down, explaining to us that the cancer had spread. He told us the treatment options, something involving a box on her head and more needles and radiation and tests. And he said he had the option not to treat her any further.
Somewhere in all that, I heard she’d only have months to live, regardless of treatment or no treatment.
Even writing about all of this, days later in my journal, I still can’t comprehend it.
Dad took Allison and I home from the hospital towards after dinnertime, and I’ll never forget the drive home on the Pittsburgh parkway. We were in the BMW, the car Mom always said she wanted when she’d turn forty years old. Dad bought it for her thirty-ninth birthday back in April, probably knowing waiting another year was of no point because by then, she may not be alive.
The convertible top was down, and the summer day air was fading away as it hit my face and blew my hair wildly in all directions. The sun was setting and the city looked so beautiful. It felt so wrong to be driving home without her, like we were leaving her behind for good. None of us talked, but you could feel how hurt the three of us felt. How confused, mad, sad, angry and awful we felt.
I’m just in disbelief that my life has changed so fast. Prior to cheer camp, I thought the cancer was gone. I thought she was better, just meaner. Now she has limited months/weeks/days to live.
August 3, 2008
I heard noise down below from my attic bedroom and went to see what the commotion was about. Dad was giving Mom a bath at 11:30 at night. She has her days and nights mixed up. When he put her back in bed, she kept trying to get up, like a stubborn little child. Dad hasn’t slept for days and I feel so helpless. He looks like he could fall asleep standing up. I told him to rest and that I’d stay with Mom for a little. She fought me the entire time, relentlessly trying to sit up and out of bed.
It’s scary to think of what will happen in the near future. I could never have imagined any of this happening; not even the cancer, but just how it’s all ending–her not being able to talk to us, Dad having to feed and wash her. She can’t really even walk anymore and I’m not sure she knows who everyone is.
Her and I sat together at the kitchen island today while I ate an apricot cookie. She’d always buy them from Giant Eagle and she stared at me while I ate it, telling me “I was silly,” in broken up syllables. I gave her one, and we each ate them together with glasses of milk.
Dad took her to Dairy Queen in her convertible and when they pulled into the garage, she had thrown up ice cream everywhere. I helped give her a bath afterwards. It’s like she’s crumbling apart, and we have to watch it because we love her and there’s nothing else we can do.
On a happier note, I interviewed for Buckle today and got the job. I have tried to just keep doing normal things, like seeing my friends etc.
August 14, 2008
Mom is doing really bad, not talking or eating or moving. Family has been visiting again, and it feels sickening to know they’re all here to say their last goodbyes as she sits in the same upright position in bed. Cole and Tatum are in Harrisburg with Aunt Katie and Uncle Ryan; Dad didn’t want them here for what we think are the final few days.
And that’s it for those entries. That night, on the 14th, you left our world, and never since then, have I stopped searching for you.