I walked into the house and threw the keys on the long dining room table. Instead of going straight upstairs, something led me to the kitchen. My 46 year old mom was seated at the table, still dressed from a lunch out with the girls, her back ramrod straight. She said nothing. I gave her a smooch on the head and then realized something was wrong. She couldn’t talk.
Six weeks before, life as we knew it had changed. While I was sunning and funning on the beach in Key West, my mother had a brain aneurysm. I didn’t find out until later when I flew back home from Spring Break, badly sunburned but ready to dive back into my freshman year of college. This was before cell phones, and my dad hadn’t known where to reach me at the rundown motel where my friends and I were staying.
Long, scary days in ICU, then a regular room, followed by recovery at home, and we thought my mom was on the mend. My sister, brother, and I went back to college at our mother’s urging: Go, you have a life, you have things to take care of… and we did.
My mother adjusted to the new reality of giving up her car for a whole year (people who have had a seizure should not drive), scaling back her business, and focusing on recovery. She was almost herself. She didn’t like having an aide stay with her during the days, because she felt like she had to entertain her. She liked it best when her friends would come just to hang out. We never discussed my leaving school and taking care of her.
She did not lose her spunk. In language therapy, she had to write a sentence involving kittens. No “The cat sat on the rug,” for her. Her sentence read something like, “The coddled and capricious kittens constantly craved quality quilts.”
Freshman year ended and I came home. And now, after a day of shopping and spending time at the tanning booth, I found myself standing in front of my silent mother, and she needed me.
I called 911 and the ambulance arrived shortly. Four men came in the house. One said to his buddies, “Hey, we’ve been here before. This is the same lady who was yelling and screaming and seizing a few weeks ago.” I hated him. I wanted to make him pay for his insensitivity -- for planting that image in my brain—but I was 18, my mother was not acting like my mother, and I kept my mouth shut.
Back to the hospital for more tests and procedures. Within a few days she seemed like herself again. My long distance boyfriend had a week of dances and festivities at the Air Force Academy. My mother told me to go. “Just make sure your boob doesn’t fall out the side of that green formal dress,” she laughed. Go, you have a life, you have things to do…and so I did.
Dances, parties, we had a lovely time. My mom sounded like herself on the phone whenever I called. But something had changed. The word Cancer was mentioned for the first time. Biopsy. Should I come home early?
Stay, you have a life… I’ll see you when you get home. So I stayed.
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