Monday, April 3, 2017

The One About My Mom

In my mind she’s 40 or thereabouts. She’s frozen in time. I can’t pinpoint why 40 is the age. 

I remember her turning 30. I remember specifically that we had gotten new carpet in our house in Bardwell, Kentucky, just days prior to that milestone and that someone had spilled a beverage on the carpet in the living room. I remember her crying on her birthday as she told this information to her dad, my granddaddy. I now know that it wasn’t about the spill as much as it was about turning 30, having experienced that often anxiety-riddled birthday for myself. 

I remember when she turned 50. My sister and I threw a surprise party for her complete with high school friends she hadn’t seen in many years along with a secret arrival from New York by yours truly. She was lured to my sister’s church’s fellowship hall under the guise of helping sew Easter costumes. She was carrying her own sewing machine when she entered that room to the shock of “Surprise” and smiling faces. She cried. Holding that sewing machine, she cried. It makes me tear up as I write this remembering with joy that we had not only managed to surprise her, but that she was also truly happy.

The year she turned 40, I turned 22. Forty is another milestone birthday but I still can’t pinpoint what it is about that year, that age. She wanted a t-shirt that said, “It took me 40 years to look this good.” I got it for her. (When I turned 40 she asked me if I wanted one of my own. I declined that fashion statement straight out. We both laughed). 

As I said, I turned 22 the year she turned 40. That was the year I came out to my friends as gay. It was three months after her birthday and a mere 14 days after mine. Milestones reached for each of us back in 1993. The only way I would want to be 22 again would be if I could retain all the knowledge I have obtained since then, but I digress. When I picture her in my mind the image is often of her at this time in her life, our lives.

Christmas morning, 1972
I know she’s gotten older but it never ceases to shock me when I see her face after a prolonged absence. Her beauty endures. Her smile is still vibrant and alive. Her eyes are still twinkling pools of blue. She’s still the biggest kid on Christmas morning. She still believes in the magic of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and that I will always be her little boy no matter how old I get.

She will binge watch Downton Abbey with me and cry at all the right moments. She will play games into the night. She's my only Words With Friends opponent. She still looks and acts like my mom, just an older version. Her face is no longer as smooth as it once was, her hair no longer brown. But the reality of her age doesn’t line up with the suspended memory in my mind.

Time marches on. Mortality strums its thumb over the heartstrings.

She just turned a young 64. And I’m her “forever” little boy who has grown to be a man nearing 46. The relationship between mother and son has changed over the years. Because of what she calls a “mother’s love” I probably feel more at ease being myself around her than any other person in my immediate family. I don’t talk to her as much as I used to nor as much as I should. We text, yes. But hearing her voice can sometimes ease the pain that she doesn’t even know I’m feeling, calm the fears that she doesn’t even know are there.

January 2016
Phone calls always end with “I love you.” And I do love her. I’ll never be able to express adequately how much. It’s just not possible. She’s my mom…momma.

All of this has been written in preface to the shock of hearing that she was in the emergency room on Saturday night. She was out to dinner and talking to a friend when she felt pain in the left side of her jaw and then the left side of her face started to tingle and feel numb. Numb is how I felt upon reading those words in the text from my sister. Even when I read her words, “I think she is okay,” (my sister texting as a nurse as much as my sister), mortality showed itself. 

Her blood pressure was high. The doctor ordered a head CT, chest x-ray, and EKG. They all came back clear. However, I was not prepared to hear the word “stroke” as a possibility even if it did have the word “mini” in front of it. A mini donut is still a donut and sugar is sugar. My mom can’t be the age where people have a stroke. She just can’t be. Can she? 

As I said, everything came back clear. Her blood pressure is totally normal. Nothing confirmed conclusively that she had indeed had a mini stroke. But she was scared. I understand that. I too was scared. She stayed overnight in the hospital but was released on Sunday and went home. So back to life as usualShe’s a trooper who doesn’t even plan on missing a day of work. But me, I’m not ready, nor will I ever be, for words like “stroke” or “heart attack,” or anything else negative for that matter, to be in the same sentence when referring to her. She’s my mom. She’s always been in my corner. What would I do without her? 

1971
I want to protect her from the havoc that the repercussions of the aforementioned words could/might/can wreak on her. I want to be in her corner, like the Crazy Healthy Dragon on the POM Wonderful commercial who fights off the free radicals.

She is no longer 40 and I am no longer 22. Time has marched on. It keeps marching. That’s a good thing because if it stopped then one of us wouldn’t be here to march with it. 

Andy Rooney said, “I didn’t get old on purpose, it just happened. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you.” 

She’s lucky. I’m lucky. Our luck continues.