For the moment, I am alone in the room. I take the time to let my weary eyelids lower over my eyes, expelling a long, soft breath past my lips as I do. A secret wish that what lingers before me would be gone when I opened my eyes, breezes through my mind. I cannot see for this little while, but I can still hear. The mechanical sounds landing on my ears defy and deceive the wish I?ve just made. Indeed, in my mind, I know it?s real; yet, my heart will always feel differently. Although my mind will suffer this reality until I am on my own deathbed, my heart will remind me of the life that was, has been, and will forever be, that of my mother.
A skip in the rhythm of the electrical beeps cause me to lift my lids. I lean forward in my chair, the yellow vinyl crinkling beneath me as I stretch my neck to get a good glance at the bed parallel from where I sit. My mother lies motionless. The sadistic looking long, thick, plastic tubing remains attached into her mouth; the respirator, her artificial lungs of sorts remains pumping, giving off a soft swoosh as its accordion like body works to keep my mother half-alive. The dim, reddish-orange light flowing from the wall lamp above her head casts an eerie halo. I don’t know what I expected to find different. Perhaps, it was the wish affecting me. It’s not like my mom will ever walk, talk, breathe, lift her lips in a gentle smile, click her tongue, call any of us seven kids by each other’s names, getting us mixed up just by a simple slip of her tongue, or blanket me with the comforting warmth of her embrace again. No, she is not coming back to me.
I am an eternal student of psychology, although it has been six years since I’ve managed to brave the collegiate world and escape unharmed. Being as such, I begin to wonder about the stages of grief. Are there seven or twelve? It doesn’t matter, really, because only one is building in my mind already. And it’s anger. I’m angry with the doctors. I am angry with the nurses. I am angry at my mother, and even at my father, who died eleven years earlier. I am angry with God. I am angry at the world. Why me? Why my mother? Why did my parents have to die so young? Dad, when he was sixty-seven, and now mom; she is only sixty-five. What have I done to deserve the deaths of my parents before I am even thirty years old? Is self-pity a stage of grief?
It feels as if the core of my soul, from the pit of my stomach to the bottom of my heart, has been torn from me. It’s the emptiest I’ve ever felt in my life. My youth must have shielded me from this mental pain when my dad died; I was only seventeen then. Still, that painful memory will linger until my own final days on this earth, but not to this degree. I slump backwards in the barely comfortable yellow chair and then shut my eyes again. It’s said that your life flashes before your eyes when death looms near you, and it could very well be true. But if my mother isn’t lying on her hospital bed with her life playing out behind her eyelids, then I am seeing the playback for her, behind my eyelids. Snatches of her life unfold just as I remember them. It’s not quite like watching an eight-millimeter reel, but it comes close enough to that view. And I do the one thing that I know my mother would not want me to ever do–I begin to compare my life with hers. Fond memories fall prey to my newfound self-pity.
I can?t see myself traveling to Germany as an amateur jazz and gospel singer. I can?t see myself as a mother of seven and being married for thirty-two years. I can?t see myself as mentor and teacher to school kids of all ages. I can?t see myself accomplishing any feats as near as daring as those of my mom. Of course, I?ve been raised on the messages to always love myself and to reach for any dream I might have. But as I grow older, my mind somehow manages to override my parents? advice, and before long I find that I?m a wallflower. Too shy to ever sing before an audience, let alone stand before a classroom full of kids. No, I will never be my mother?but that?s the point, isn?t it. It?s what she?s been instilling in me all these years, before being restricted to a hospital bed?for me to simply be myself.
I don?t reach this epiphany as I sit with my mom, this night. In fact, this takes about two years after my mom?s death to sink into my soul, but it was this night that set me on the road to this realization. Although there are times when I still feel like I can easily don my Queen of the Wallflowers crown, I suppose I?ve come a long way, on those messages of love from mom and dad. It feels like I?m succeeding at being myself. I made it through college, surviving countless research presentations before packed classrooms and one on one conversation with professors. I don?t stifle my creativity, or swallow my words and emotions like I once did. And I guess the proof is in the words that a friend spoke about me recently. She said that I?m ?full of life.? I laughed lightly at the compliment, thanked her for such powerful words, and returned the compliment to her. In the end, though, all I think is, wow…did you hear that mom? I guess you and dad would be proud of me, then.
Full of life. Not too bad for a former Queen of the Wallflowers. Thank you mom for strengthening me to be able to cope and to keep trying to move forward.
? C. M. Clifton
C. M. Clifton is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writing.
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