Last year, on the day you died, I stopped in the gift shop at the hospital. There had been a bright, colorful cat or cow sitting in the window (I can’t remember which now) that kept calling to me as I passed by it, saying, “Your mom would like me!” So I finally stopped in, thinking that the color would light up your hospital room, and the silliness would make you smile.
When I handed it to you, you unwrapped the bag it was in, and you smiled and went, “Oooh!”, just like I knew you would.
And then, just a few hours later, I was watching you suddenly gasping for breath. I was watching the respiratory therapist trying various different things—an aerosol, a higher rate of oxygen, an oxygen forcing mask, as opposed to the “on-demand” mask you had had before—as your O2 levels dropped and your heart rate plummeted. We were telling you to calm down, to try to breathe deeply. I said to you, worried, “Mom. You’re rattling, Mom. You need to slow down.”
I remember the respiratory therapist calling the doctor. I remember thinking to myself that this couldn’t be happening so suddenly, that you had been—if not your normal self, at least chipper and alert and amused by the toy I had brought you—just an hour previously.
I remember the doctor coming in, and putting her hand on my shoulder, and saying, “Kate. Kate, I need you to step outside and talk with me a moment.”
I remember going out of her room, and leaning, dazedly, against the wall, my eyes focusing far far away, as the doctor told me that I had to make a decision. I remember looking at her, at her sorrowful eyes, and knowing what I had to say. I was crying.
“Stop the machines,” I said. “Take her off the oxygen,” I said. “She wants it that way,” I said.
She pulled me into her arms and murmured something—I don’t remember what—and then we went back into your room. She told your favorite nurse to “make her as comfortable as possible”. She told the respiratory therapist to pull the oxygen mask off.
The nurse shot you up with morphine. A lot.
They all touched me as they left the room. There were hands patting my shoulders. There was Elizabeth the nurse holding my hand. The doctor hugged me again.
I sat there an hour with you, holding onto your hand. Your heartbeat went slower and slower. It was so odd, Mom, because you would be quiet for a minute, and then take a breath, and then be quiet again. The time between breaths got longer and longer.
And then you were gone, and all I could do was hold onto your hand and cry and cry and cry.
I took off your wedding ring then, and put it on my ring finger. It’s there still, with my engagement ring and wedding ring.
And I had to go back to your little apartment, the one that we had worked so hard to make colorful, and cheery, and yours, and I made phone calls, and I cried.
It’s Mother’s Day, Mom. It’s your day. Normally, I would be calling you up and telling you what OmegaDad and OmegaDotter had gotten me, and would be asking how your flowers were, and what you had been doing. I’d be able to ask you about Girl Drama, and get advice from you on how to handle it. I’d be able to whine to you about how OmegaDad didn’t get the job in Spokane. We’d talk about OmegaBro and his family. We’d chat about Andy and Dana and Georgene and Jim and your local breakfast bunch and what the Queen Bees at the facility dining room were doing lately and what you had for your latest blog posting. I’d tell you about how I’m on Grand Jury duty, and what it’s been like. You’d want to talk politics, and about Bin Laden’s death. I’d tell you that OmegaDotter is suddenly up to my shoulders, when she was just below my boobs just a year and a half ago. I’d tell you that the rhubarb are exploding, and the lilacs and forsythia are budding out leaves, and I’d ask for your advice on what to do about the forsythia never blooming. We’d be making plans for my normal June visit, and deciding where I could drive you, what odd little out-of-the-way places you wanted to investigate and photograph. I’d tell you that this has been a bad year. I’d tell you that I’ve gained a lot of weight. I’d tell you that I suddenly look old. We’d talk about the fact that here in Suburban Alaska, we’ve been having weather that’s a helluva lot like Monsoon Season back in Arizona. I’d lament about the puppy’s tendency to put anything and everything into his mouth, and how he’s so desperate to play with Wooley the cat but Wooley the cat can’t stand him. You’d laugh at my description of Wooley getting fed up and rearing up and boxing Seward—bap bap BAP—and the dog yelping and running away with the cat chasing him. I’d tell you about the Alaska mini-vacation we’re taking next weekend.
Y’see, Mom, that’s what I miss the most. Just being able to chit-chat with you, because we never ever had awkward moments in our conversations. They always just flowed, one topic to the other.
I miss doing the crossword puzzles with you. I miss kissing you goodnight. I miss pulling the car to an abrupt stop because you saw something that intrigued you. I miss your encyclopedic knowledge of wildflowers. I miss being able to ask you questions about Dad, and about the family. I miss your wide interest in so many things.
I miss you so much. I love you.
(The funny thing is, you’d be telling me, “Pull yo’self together, Katya! You need to join a club, get out, meet people. Stop wallowing and turning into a mushroom!” I hear you, I know it’s what I need to do. But I had no idea…no idea…how hard your death would hit me, love.)