Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Do Not Go Gentle

“Something to remember me by,” was the first thing that popped into my head staring at her gaping jaw, open, lifeless, as remembered umpteen (her favorite word) times on the couch, a drop of drool at the corner that was tilted; it could be either way, left or right, there was always a drop of saliva daring to fall onto her lap, but it never did – why – probably due to the raspy dragging in of breath that sucked it back up each time it threatened to let go of the dried and wrinkled crevice corner of her mouth.  Each time (and there were many) she engaged in a stunt that evoked disdain from her children, it would result in, if only briefly, a moment of elation she could then stow in her “I gotcha again!” stockpile of personal pleasures at pissing off everyone, and she would dismiss our repulse with, “something to remember me by!”

“For God’s sake, this is your final expression?” was all I could think, as the reality of her finally gone kept smacking me on the head, unbelieving, waiting for her to open her eyes – “fooled ya” – and once again the nagging would begin, relentless as it had been up to the moment the nurse injected the lethal dose of morphine and Ativan.  “You know she won’t wake up,” the nurse had quietly warned, accomplice to the final act of snuffing out a life.  A slight nod, unnoticeable to the naked eye, was delivered from us.  She, who had no desire to deliver us into this world, was delivered out with no reprieve.

I tried to locate a tear somewhere, there must be at least one, I thought.  But it never came.  She died alone, as she had lived, driving all life away from her with her narcissist focus, not even allowing us to provide comfort, to mourn her departure, as she took her final breath.  I had laid my head on the shoulder of my beloved that morning after the call.  Was it a whimper?  A soft sigh of relief?  The tears never came – ever.  Unlike the avalanche that came the night after my father had died.  He and I had made amends in the hours before his death, without words or actions, but with an undistinguishable acceptance in our gaze as I squeezed drops of water into his mouth from a damp washcloth.  The tears had come that night as if I had never cried before.  The damn broke, releasing a torrent of rage, hate, love, relief, scorn, and pity; for him for all of the resentment he had for us all in forcing him to live a life he had no hand in designing, for me, an unwilling recipient of his torment, soaked in alcohol and cigarettes. 

But there were none for the creator of the illusion we all lived.  She sat there, propped up, as we had left her the night before, her breath labored from years of disease, an illness she had fought tooth and nail against, rallying time and time again from its eventual fatality.  How she had wanted to live!  An entire existence of wanting to live by her own design, yet succumbing at an age once labeled old maid, fighting against motherhood, suburbia and apple pie.  Even as her lungs hardened and calcified, coming back from a CO2 narcosis to shock us once again into the realization that she was not going quietly, she hung on, to the shreds of her wasted life, hung on, to the pernicious viscera of her indignant existence, determined to ruin anything in her path that reminded her of the dreams she had relinquished long ago. 

To feel sorry would let her scorn go unforgiven – yet – it was that self righteous vanity that molded the mother in me, who loves her children, who applauds the foibles and flaws in others, sees them as intricate networks of genetic data, gifts from ancestors, good and bad, teasing out the desirable from unsavory characteristics, to pass down, in word and progeny.  For that hard won victory over a long, drawn out battle, I had to honor her fight and extol her defeat. 

We sat there at her bedside, conversing for two hours over a corpse, as if it were normal.  And she sat there, vacant, not there.  Life began in her wake, because she was never there, in her life or mine.