Three years ago today, right this very minute, I was in Atlanta. At the hospital. My mom was dying.
I think about my mother pretty much every day. I miss her. A lot. I'm a grown man, but there are days I just wish I could hug my mother and tell her that I love her, and hear her tell me that she loves me.
I was seven months sober when she got sick. She went to the hospital on New Year's Day, 2004, not feeling well, thinking she had the flu. Her regular physician was on vacation, so she went to the emergency room, thinking they would give her some antibiotics and send her home to get some rest. A doctor examined her and thought she might be sicker than just the flu, so they did some x-rays and admitted her to the hospital with pneumonia. Her condition deteriorated quickly, and my sister called me to tell that she wasn't doing well and they were running some tests. I drove up from Jacksonville on the 3rd and stayed a couple of days, and it seemed she was getting better. I came back home, but was in touch with my sister and father daily. The tests came back and the news wasn't good. Cancer in her lungs. She was stable but her lungs kept filling up with fluid. She'd get better for a couple of days, then get worse again. Then better. I decided to go back up to see her on Saturday, the 17th. They were going to start radiation treatments on Monday the 19th, so I wanted to spend some time with her beforehand, try to boost her spirits. My sister and my dad said she was doing okay. I said I'd be there anyway. It was for me as much as for her. The doctors wanted to do another bronchioscopy on the 16th, not sure why, they just did. They did it in the morning. My brother-in-law called me that afternoon. He told me to get on the next plane, mom wasn't doing well. Hurry, he said.
I was at work when he called, selling cars, and I told my boss I had to go. He said no problem, do what you need to do. I was freaking. A friend helped me make flight reservations. I went home and packed. I packed a suit. I didn't like doing it, like admitting that she wasn't going to make it. Somehow, from the way my brother-in-law's voice was breaking, I knew. I made it to the airport just in time. I was the last one to board the plane. As I entered the plane a flight attendant was turning with a tray in her hand and I nearly knocked her over. The tray had two little bottles of Absolute vodka on it, my drug of choice. For just the briefest moment, the thought of a drink appealed to me. Just as quickly I banished the thought. That's the last time I've thought that a drink sounded good.
My brother-in-law picked my up at the airport in Atlanta, and I think we set a new land speed record getting to the hospital. Mom was alive, but pretty much incoherent on a morphine drip. The whole family was there. They tried to brace me. I tried to brace myself. I walked into the room and went to her bedside. Her eyelids fluttered when I took her hand and said, "Mom, it's me."
I squeezed her hand and I like to think I felt her squeeze mine back. Her hands were swollen a little. Her nails were polished. She was warm. I kissed her on the cheek and told her I love her. Her eyelids fluttered again.
She died just after midnight. There is no other sorrow like the one you feel when you lose your mother. So empty, yet, so filled with grief. I miss her so much.
My mother saved my ass on several occassions. It was her love, and the love of my father and sister and a few others, that nursed me back to health during the summer of 2003. The Christmas holidays that year were the best we could remember, as a family. I was healthy again, on the road to recovery, and everyone else was doing well. Mom was feeling fine during the holidays. I'm still baffled that she could have been so riddled with cancer and didn't even know anything was wrong until days later. I'll always remember those holidays. She told me she was proud of me and that she knew I was going to be okay. She could see it in my eyes, I was going to be alright this time. That night in the hospital I told her I was going to be alright.
I know my mother is with me, I know she's still got my back. I can feel her presence sometimes. If I concentrate, I can hear her voice, her laughter. I know she's proud of me. I'm proud to be her son.