This and That and a Few Other Things

by Laura

Too many thoughts lately, and too disjointed to neatly fit on a blog. My brain bounces from thing to thing and skips around in time. While Mom was still with me, I thought that loving someone with cancer immediately thrusts you into this strange place, alive, but always mindful of death. Like Woody Allen, only not at all funny. So more like modern Woody Allen. With her gone, it’s only gotten more extreme.

Angry skies today, reminding me of August 10th. The day before, our power had gone out from a strong storm. The next morning I decided to drive my husband to the train station so I could have the car to visit my mom. But the morning weather was unusually fitful. Powerful rains flooded the roads in an instant. At the bottom of a hill, just short of the station, a train crossing kept me at an intersection with cars stopped on all sides. Floodwater began to pool around us. With the train in front and vehicles all around, there was no way out. If the water got much higher, we’d be trapped. I thought about how ridiculous it was, that Mom was fighting so hard to live, and there we were, perfectly healthy, and absolutely at risk of dying from a stupid rainstorm and a badly timed train. The senselessness of it.

The road was closed at the station. My husband foolishly waded through knee high water to get there. A water rescue vehicle appeared from out of nowhere, followed by police cruisers and fire engines. I wondered if anyone had been swept into the river. I parked along a road away from the mess and waited for my husband to call me from the train to let me know he was safe. He did. He was. I didn’t know my mom was dying.

A few hours later, having dropped off the kids with my sister in law, I drove the same roads to retrieve him from the station. The roads were dry by then, but I was more frantic. I don’t know why I was hurrying, pounding the steering wheel with my fist as I missed light after light. What did it matter by then? She was already gone.
I get so angry now. I don’t mean to. I think awful, rotten things at the store and I feel guilty as I think them. I see dumb looking people wandering around saying dumb things. I see angry looking senior citizens making cruel faces at children. I think… Why you? Why do you get to be here and she’s not? What’s so great about you? She was so smart and beautiful and special and you’re just a waddling waste. Why are you still around?

Rotten, right? I know. For that and so many other reasons I try not to make eye contact. I don’t want to see anyone and I don’t want to be seen. They changed the rules for the self checkout at the store. 20 items or less only. Big signs. Well, a few packets of baby food puts you over 20 in no time flat. So I’m forced to deal with a person. I want to yell, “Just let me do self checkout! I’m fast! I’m so goddamn fast! I could get all 27 of these things scanned in the time it takes that man over there to find the bar code on his bananas! Just let me do it! Can’t you see I’m hurting????”

“I’m fine. How are you?” Yes, I have a shopper’s card. Take my shopper’s card. Give it back now. “Thank you. You too.” Get me out of here so I can scream in my car, please. Only I never do. I just sit there feeling stupid. And then I drive home.

I understand why people have religion. I really do. Now more than ever. I get it. Because this is unthinkably awful. Because the pain is too great. Because it doesn’t make sense, how someone so important to you can slip through your fingers and disappear and the world keeps moving like nothing ever happened.

Someone posted a thing on Facebook today. She had a dream about her best friend who’d been killed in the movie theater shooting (in my old town of Aurora). She wrote, “I think she wants us all to know, she is doing GREAT.”

What? No, she’s not. She’s not doing great. She’s dead. She’s anything but great. You think she’s doing great somewhere? Smiling as she watches her daughter try to live without her? Watching old movies and kicking it with Jesus? Are you kidding me? I envy that kind of thinking. I really do. It must be slightly wonderful to think your friend is dead, but nonetheless, great. I wonder if I’ve damaged my daughter by not making her believe in such things, but then again, having never been taught them myself, how would I even do that? I couldn’t. But she’s so sensitive, my daughter, and her brain works in complicated, often painful ways. I worry about her, that it’s all too much. I want to remind her of all the good things in life and show her it’s all worth it, that life is truly beautiful. But I’m having such a hard time of it myself. And I’m not in my happy place. I don’t see anything beautiful here. So I buy her shirts that she loves and I hate and books and silly things, erasers and such, just to get her to smile for a moment. Nothing overboard. I can’t afford to go overboard. Just anything… a movie rental, tacos for dinner… anything to make her smile.

But it doesn’t last. I can see how much she hurts. And we’ve all been sick. Twice in three weeks for her. Too much stress with no relief.

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I used to say that to my mom. Now I say it to myself.