Saturday, November 8, 2014
before i forget..
six months ago already. something changes when the mother passes, something..
a sudden silence. i still remember that night. it was the last night of my vacation, i'd spent the week prepping the garden so that my brother and i could bring her to see it for mother's day. i couldn't sleep... it was warm, the first warm night of the year.
earlier that week i'd talked to her on the phone. she sounded happy, but her voice was distant. she had finally knocked the last thing off her list, she found her best friend. and there was one more surprise, a baby kitten. new life.. pure joy. she named him punkin, after the first kitty i remember having as a child.
months before, after the last of many attempts at taking her own life, we had a conversation about happiness. i remember telling her the very same bit of advice that had gotten me through the darkest days of my own journey.. you can't rely on a single other person in this world to make you happy. not your parents, not your children, not your husband or your best friend.. the only person in the whole world that can make you happy is you. and then i asked her, what is it that you want? what can you do to make you happy?
she sat quietly for a moment.
she turned her head and looked at me, and flashed a smile full of broken rotted teeth. "i want my smile back" she said, and laughed. she started to make a list. dentures, dignity. some way to get out of this house, a car was out of the question.. scooter. she missed her best friend.. a phone call. to find a new apartment.. home.
there were a few other things on the list that i was not aware of. she wanted to speak to her sister again, something she hadn't done [without a fight] in years, which she finally did the day before. she wanted cable television. she wanted to know that her children would live a good life.
it was a long and terribly cold winter. i didn't get to visit her often, but she'd gotten herself a cell phone so that she could text. one day i got a message saying that she was going to have all of her teeth pulled. the start of the process. for months after, she would wait toothless until she could be fitted for her dentures. she had to pay quite a bit out of her disability pension to get it done, but she didn't seem to mind.
one day in february i received a frantic phone call. she was on a mission uptown and her loaner scooter crapped out on the side of the road. it was far too cold for the battery to keep going, and not knowing what else to do, i paid for a handycab to go and pick it up. she was on a waiting list for that too, to have a new scooter of her very own. it was starting to look more and more like it wouldn't happen, they kept telling her she wasn't 'eligible' for a new one. she remained patient.
at some point in that jumble of time and spending of money, she had missed a rent payment. she was about to lose her home. by some grace of god or the universe or something, after the threat of being put out in the cold, she came up with the money to make the rent. she realized then that the place she was at was where she wanted to remain. she could check home off the list.
a couple more months had passed as she sat waiting. even though it was starting to look as though she might not get everything that she wanted, she refused to give up hope. one day out of nowhere she got a phone call from the mobility specialists, 'your scooter is ready, we will bring it by tomorrow'. she was so happy she called me right away. it was even candy apple red, just as she'd hoped for.
within the next few weeks everything was coming together. she had reunited with her best friend and partner, she finally got herself some cable tv, she even got a hand-me-down big screen from my brother to enjoy it on. and spring was coming, with her new wheels she could get out to enjoy the sun.
the most exciting thing for her had to be the teeth. she got them just in time for easter dinner. i told her, whatever she wanted to eat with her new teeth, i'd make it happen. i already knew what she would say.. chinese! on my way to her house that easter sunday, i picked up a serving of all of her favourites. fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup and all the fixins. she had the biggest smile i'd ever seen when i came through the door. i wish i had taken a picture, had i known...
and then the questions. 'are you alright?' ..i wondered why she was asking. yeah of course i'm alright what do you mean? she meant in general. she asked if my brother and i were well. i told her that finally after years i'd found a place to call home, and somewhere to start my farm. i have a decent steady job, and good things to look forward to. my brother, he's alright too. he's about to get his full license, is making more money than i do, and has a lovely girlfriend that treats him good. all the things a mother loves to hear. her children grew up successful and happy despite everything. we talked for a while longer, she said she was happy too.
that was the last time i'd seen her. i had to leave, and for the first time when we hugged goodbye, she didn't cry. she smiled again when i turned around to close the door, so i put down my backpack and returned for one more hug and kiss.
many years of her life were spent in the throes of physical and emotional pain, addiction and mental illness. the last decade her body slowly gave out. she was due to have a pacemaker, a section of her intestines removed which would mean shitting in a bag the rest of her life, and three times a week dialysis. she'd suffered a heart attack, had a brush with skin cancer, and lived with a degenerating spine for as long as i could remember. she had far surpassed the point of no return as far as her health goes, and yet she still managed to pull herself together to find peace, joy and happiness in the last few months in her body.
cause of death: organ failure due to overdose. no one will ever know for sure if it was accidental or on purpose, especially given her history of attempts. what i do know is she was ready to go. this time, i couldn't be angry. this time, there was no text message, no letter, no phone call. just a silence in the night. this time it was not in anger or fear or despiration. there was no spite, or hatred for the world that consumed her. she was happy, and she made it all happen herself. not a single other person in this world...
"for the first time in my life i can say, i'm finally happy. i got my wheels, i got my teeth, i got my cable tv... i have my best friend here, my kids are happy... i have everything i need. oh and guess what, i got a kitten!"
i could hear a little meow, and she was laughing. i was standing in the garden covered in dirt when the phone cut out. that was the last time we spoke. no last i love you, no last goodbye.. the line is still open.
mom, i miss you every day. even though it breaks my heart to know i'll never hug you again, i'm glad you no longer have to suffer. thank you for this life, for my brother, and for all the lessons. thanks for holding on long enough for us all to realize what is important in this life. family, hope, happiness, helping one another, and above all, love...