Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hooray for Summer Vacation!

The school year finally ended and that's great because I have some awesome things to look forward to this summer. Here's a list:
--Finishing my summer class thus completing HALF of my MEd!
--Taking a 6-day intensive class that involves field trips and literary tours of Boston and the surrounding areas (dorky I know but I'm really excited!)
--Myrtle Beach for 5 days
--Cousin's night
--At least one trip to see my best friend in PA

In the past few months I have gone to my brother's finance's bridal shower and my cousin's baby shower. Of course I become over emotional because I think of how much fun my mom would have if she was still around to be a part of all these happy memories. I thought it would be an appropriate time to post my third and final story from the past semester!


It always happens at the most inopportune times: the rushing emotional overload all because of one sensory memory. Some woman, unbeknownst to her, will walk by me wearing the perfume my mother wore for the 17 years that I knew her. The mixture of musk, vanilla, and sandalwood warms me without my realizing. The warmth is only temporary. Once I realize that the smell the comforted me for so many years is not my mother I am sadly reminded of the day my mother passed away.

Wednesdays had a routine when I was a senior in high school. Get up, go to school, pretend to be interested in being a senior in high school, buy a coffee, teach and take a dance class, go home, eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed. There wasn’t much that changed from week to week. The second week of 2003 was not going to follow the normal routine. It was clear when my father came and told me that my mother’s doctors who had taken care of her for six long years told him that there was not much more they could do. The six-year battle with ovarian cancer was coming to a close. It was a matter of time and we were to just sit around and wait.

Monday of that second week in 2003 a hospice employee came to the house to begin the planning for in home care. My mother, who had lost so much weight she looked like a skeleton with skin, did not like having the man from hospice in the house. Maybe it was the sound of his voice, maybe it was because she knew that she was dying; whatever it was she was not happy. Later that evening she slipped into a comatose state. She was sleeping but in some small way alert. I knew the end was coming and at the risk of sounding terrible I wanted it to come soon.

Tuesday came and went. Nothing changed. In fact my memory of this day is so foggy I am sure that nothing eventful happened.

Finally, Wednesday, January 8, 2003.

I woke up, ate breakfast (two Oreos and a sup of tea) with my mother who was still comatose, and went off to school. During the day I felt as if everything was wrong. There was a foreboding that I could not shake no matter what I tried. I followed my typical Wednesday routine until I arrived at my dance studio. I pulled my instructor aside and told her that I did not think my mother was going to make it through the night. We cried and then I did the one thing that brought me joy, I danced. For that hour I felt normal things were right in the world. When my aunt picked me up after class ended I knew there was something seriously wrong. My mother’s family had all gathered in the house and was eating pizza. I went into my mother’s bedroom, where my father had moved her so she could be more comfortable; to tell her I was home. She was worse than when I left for school that morning. I knew what was coming. I went to muscle down a slice of pizza and talked with my aunts and cousins. All conversations are a blur except the last conversation I had with my mother.

I asked one of my cousins to leave the room while I spoke with my mother. I told her that I loved her and I thanked her for everything she had done for me and for all she had taught me. My older brother came into the room and we held her hands and cried. Her breathing was so labored it looked painful. My brother and I looked at each other and there was a mutual understanding. She had to go. While holding her hand my brother told her that it was time to let go. He reassured her that with so many people in the family who loved us that he and I would be taken care of. We called the family into the bedroom and we all stood around my mother as she took her last breath.

The next few hours are rushed in my memory. I hysterically cried to as many people as would listen. A hospice nurse came and pronounced her dead (I do remember screaming at this poor woman that what she was doing was ridiculous). The funeral home came and zipped her body into a bag and took her way. The last sound I heard was the gurney leaving the house, the last vision was the black bag that held my mother, and the last smell was my mother’s perfume.

It is quite possible that the scent of her perfume was permeated in my home and for some reason I could smell it at that moment. It could be that someone had sprayed perfume on her before she was taken away (my mother would never had left the house without perfume) or it could be that my teenage senses wanted to smell the perfume and feel comforted. Whatever the reason whenever I smell the perfume my mother wore I am both comforted and saddened. If only the women wearing my mother’s perfume that I pass by knew how much meaning their perfume holds.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another Story

I have been avoiding my blog lately. Why? Who knows. It could be because I haven't been home really in a couple of weeks. I have lots to update: Seattle, NYC, end of the year activities at work, upcoming summer events. But for now I'll post yet another story I wrote for my class this past spring. See if you can figure out what I'm talking about before the end! Enjoy.

Fear. Pain. Relief. Beauty.

I walked nervously through the door, I had done this before but the trepidation was still present. I was going at this experience alone. The first time I had someone with me, holding my hand telling me, “everything will be all right”; everything was all right, so why was I do afraid?

A man, who I later realized I had spoken to on the phone, approached me “What are you here for?” He wasn’t much taller than me but he was broad shouldered and wore a tight, long-sleeved, black t-shirt. He was apparently trying to look tougher than he was walking toward me with his arms out as if he were holding a gallon of water in each hand.

“Um.” I managed as I handed him a piece of paper.

“Give me a minute. Let me see what I can do about fixing this for you.” he said as he walked away behind a desk that I could barely see over. Fix what I thought. Everything was in order, but he was the professional so who am I to judge.

The waiting room was too sterile. The artwork on the walls too manic I wanted to leave. I paced the room. Looking from the floor to the walls to the top of the man’s behind to too tall desk. What is taking so long? I gave him exactly what I needed. I longed for someone to be with me. Do I call a friend to meet me or just suffer through this alone? I felt weak but knew I was stronger than my gut was telling me at the moment. I’d have to wait.

No one walked in or out of the front door. Music played but so softly that I couldn’t decipher what was being played and then I heard over the silence, “Follow me.”

I walked behind the man in the tight black t-shirt into a small room with a chair that looked incredibly uncomfortable. There was a mirror on the wall with photos of a family and thank you cards taped around the perimeter.

“This is Adam. He’ll be taking care of you.” said the man with the clear Napoleon complex handing Adam another piece of paper, not the one I had brought with me. Although I did see that it contained the same information.

“Is this your first time?” Adam asked. He was a sweet man. The pictures on the mirror were of his family; a wife and two little girls. He was beaming when he told me how long he was married and when his daughters were born. I was less stressed at that point. Adam was such a laid back man it was impossible to be nervous.

“I’ve done this once before so I’m no pro.” I responded.

“Ah. It’s always better the second time around. And it only gets better the more times you return.” Adam assured me as I removed my long-sleeved hooded sweatshirt and situated myself in the chair that was more comfortable than it originally portrayed itself to be.

After some conversation about how the procedure would go and organizing the necessary tools Adam looked at me with excitement in his eyes, “You ready?” he said.

“As I’ll ever be.” I replied trying hard to mask my feelings.

“OK. I’ll need you to face the wall. Don’t worry. I’ll talk you through everything I am doing so you aren’t just sitting there wondering what is going on the whole time. It’ll only hurt for a second. Ha. I can’t tell you how many times a week I say that!” he laughed.

Not being able to see what was happening was nerve wracking at first. The initial sharp pain of the needle piercing my skin was almost unbearable. I must have flinched or tensed up because Adam started asking me questions to distract me from the sound and pain. We talked for the entire hour. I told him I was a student and I was hoping to become an English teacher. He said he had more clients that were teachers than most people would believe. After fifteen minutes or so the initial pain subsided and I relaxed. The low hum of the machine was fairly relaxing and the casual, coolness of Adam made everything seem perfect.

When the hour was over Adam asked, “How was it?”

“Not as bad as I expected. But I told you I’ve done this before so I sorta knew what to expect”

“Well, take a look!” Adam ordered handing me a small mirror.

I turned by back to the mirrored wall and used the hand mirror to reveal the beautiful tattoo of my mother’s handwriting and flowers colored with our favorite colors: yellow and purple. I was more than pleased with the work. It was well worth the stress and the pain. I paid and thanked Adam for his excellent work and for keeping me at ease.

“Just tell your friends to come here if they ever need work done. And come back yourself! I’m telling you it gets better every time”

“We’ll see.” I said as I walked out of the tattoo parlor. The sun had set by the time I left and the cool late spring breeze stung my skin. It didn’t matter. I was pleased with my new addition. My mother would have loved the tattoo.