15 August 2007


A Daughters Journey Through Self-Discovery and Loss
Part Five

Several years ago when my mother suffered her second stroke I began bartering with God, "Please let her stay alive for another ten years so she can see her daughters finally marry and maybe have children."

To atleast have one of her remaining four daughters marry and give her grandchildren was a long held wish. If we could give her that by the time she turns 80, her life would have been complete. Seeing her beautiful daughters have what she had: a wonderful loving husband and adorable children. Her mission in life would have been satisfied.

But as one knows what we pray for sometimes does not come into fruition. God has his own reasons why he takes those that we love at specific times. Whether we are ready to face that loss or not isn't his concern. No matter how many people love you---when he decides it's time to withdraw his last breath and stop your heart, as you were born into this life, you are born into another.

So in January of 2002 when my 73 year-old mother had a third relapse. I pondered my 13 years in New York City, my childhood, and the possible loss of my mother. I reached an under- standing; that in order for me to have a quality and healthy existence---I'd have to rescue my mother, my own life and leave New York. I thought I'd move in with her in New Hampshire where she spent the last thirty years.

In taking care of her disintegrating body I'd assist her as she made the transition into death. All the while still bartering with God that she'd recover from this one as she did the other two. My heart and mind were split in two while I listened to her yearn for the days as a teenager drinking bottles of Pepsi-Cola and eating Devil Dogs---in between her long swims in the cool ocean waters of Gun Rock Beach in Massachusetts. Mentally I knew she'd eventually die from refusing food, but in my heart I couldn't fathom the loss of my one and only--Mother. Yet, there was still so much I hadn't achieved in my life that I needed her to be around for. After all I owed her the happiness of seeing me marry a wonderful man, that is after I found one.

In the six weeks that followed she died. As her life had unexpectedly ended---mine began. Upon planning my mothers Memorial service---I planned my move out of NH where I restlessly left three decades before. During the first few months of mourning I'd experience waves of grief along with periods of acceptance and a sense of well being. But with emotions and their unpredictable manner, I felt consumed by the darkest moments. At midnight driving along quiet and still country roads listening to a Dean Martin cassette, remembering the old songs that she loved. I pictured her in the car beside me swaying to the music and singing in unison. That vision had put me into a tailspin of sorrow and grief. I missed her so. Riding down the blackened, barren roads howling in pain like a lone fox caught in a trap--no one to come into the cold, dark woods to rescue him in the deep of the night. Suffering---the ache tightly gripping my head from the forceful well of tears bursting from my heart---draining from my eyes. Sleep was the only remedy. She takes me back to Mum, and our family as it should be…

When I resuscitate myself from the tidal wave of pain, my memory ponders the last three years with my mother. I began to notice traits and tendencies of my own that I had apparently inherited from her. During the fall and winter months I'd always tuck a Kleenex tissue up the cuff of my left sleeve. On the last Christmas I spent with her I watched her stuff more than one tissue up the cuff of her awning-stripe, pale yellow and gray knit shirt, a handful of them bulging like a bull frog at her wrist. Like me, my mother recycled her unused tissues by placing them in a small plastic bag hidden in the bedroom closet or by squishing them like cotton balls into her blue tapestry tote bag, the one hanging on the back knob of her bedroom door with an aged wooden back-scratcher poking out. Both were overflowing with the white crumpled balls.

In February 2002 while she was in the NH hospital with her third relapse and bout of Congestive Heart Failure, she lamented that she needed her box of tissues from the TV table in the living room. As an environmentalist I continually lectured her on waste and recycling. In jest I tormented her by bringing to the hospital a large blue Kleenex box packed full of the white-balled tissues from the closet. When I placed it beside her on the hospital bed she gleamed and instantly reached for one. Having to dig her hand furiously into the tight, plastic-lipped cardboard wedge to fish one out is when she realized what I had done, in disbelief she looked at me with her widening hazel eyes and spouted, "What the hell is this?" I chuckled, "You know all the unused tissues that you've crammed in the bag in the closet." She interjected in her usual theatrical tone, "These are them? How embaarahsing!" I nodded and smirked at her apparent dissatisfaction with my recycled gall. She used them anyway.

Within moments a nurse entered to flush her I.V. lines and needed a tissue for the overflow. My mother moved the tissue box closer to the nurse and as the nurse reached in for a tissue she pulled out wrinkled ones and remarked, "Are these used?" Without hesitation my mother retorted, "I know Robin---how embarrassing!" Humored by my actions and her ability to still be feisty with such an uncertain situation. I explained to the nurse who remained preoccupied with her task at hand, that I was punishing her by using the bag of clean tissues from the closet that she'd collected from her purse and sleeve for the past two years. My mother with exaggerated dramatic Italian flair rolled her deep set bulging eyes and rested her gaze upon the nurse pricking her arm.

Out of her six children (five daughters) I was the only one who plucked a tissue from my sleeve in the cool months. Each night before bed I'd whisk my long sleeve shirt up and over my head and a white mass would tumble to the floor. Forgetting they were there---I'd wonder what had fallen. I looked down and the mere sight of a rumpled tissue laying at my feet, brings a memory that warms my heart. Remembering my holiday visits with Mum my eyes smile as I hear her voice tucked somewhere in my mind, with a faint glow on her face saying, "Just like Mummy." Inwardly, I gaze back at her contentedly watching me dress from her wheelchair while I slide a tissue up the sleeve of my turtleneck before going out. And now that she's gone---we're connected by traits. The tissues she wiped my nose with as a child, the tissues that I've sobbed in since her death. I am her---she is me.

From my nose to my toes she is there. I never liked my feet tucked tightly into the bottom of a bed sheet, I feel confined. The uncomfortable sensation of my feet being bound and trapped make me instantly kick the sheets off. While visiting my mother, after she changed into her nightie and pivoted herself from the wheelchair into the bed, I'd enter when she was settled and tuck her in.

With her left side paralysis from her first stroke she maintained her independent living, but her ability to do things as perfectly as before were no longer. Her days of synchronized swimming were over and simply turning onto her side in bed wasn't an easy feat. When I'd kiss her goodnight and bid her sweet dreams, I'd straighten out the pillow under her knees. Then position her feet against the pillow wedged between the mattress and foot board of the rented hospital bed. Her long 5-foot 10-inch frame made it difficult even with bed extensions to keep her long legs from pressing against the hard uncomfortable foot board. I'd carefully lift each leg propping her heel a top the pillow. Then gripping the lion throw along with her sheet I'd wave it into the air. Watching her short baby-fine white hair fly in the breeze as the bedware melted over her aging maternal body. She'd blurt out, "Don't cover my feet!" As she kicked the sheets off in unison to my response, "I know. I don't like mine tucked in either." I'd lightly pull back the bedding to her shins leaving her toes exposed and free. The same toes that I had. The same size 11 foot. The same hang nail on the big toe.

The same piggies she scolded me about as a child when I'd run around outside in the summer bare foot, and then try to go to bed with dirty feet. My late sister whom I shared a room with would tattletale more than once whaling out to Mum, "Robin's going to bed with dirty pigs feet again!" Mum would storm into our bedroom and yank me out of bed ridiculing me to wash those dirty rotten pigs feet. Adding, "What did I tell you about going to bed with dirty, black feet!" I never even noticed until they pointed it out to me. When I grew older I kept my toes manicured with red lacquer. Although Mum never let me forget those childhood instances, and as I walk through life---it is her feet that I will take with me. Even though she has passed, every cell of her remains alive within me. And it is her love and her humor that will stay lost inside---forever.

Copyright July 2002, R. B. STUART. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape