Saturday, April 17, 2010

humungous overshare

Today--4/17/10--I turned 63. When I turned 25 4/17/72, my mother was dying and I was by her bedside. She was 63. On the morning of my birthday, after I'd spent the night by my mother's bed, my Aunt Elsie came in and said, "It's your birthday". I had forgotten.

My mother was 38 when I was born and 63 when I was 25. That was 38 years ago come Monday. I'm now the age she was when she died. She had just retired from 40 years of teaching elementary school when she had stroke after stroke and slipped into a coma for a week or so and I sat by her bed, feeding her ice cream with one of those wooden spoons most of the night. Half comatose, she still loved--as she always did--vanilla ice cream.

I'm not superstitious at all. I pay people to let black cats run in front of me. I walk under every ladder I encounter, I spill salt and don't throw it over my shoulder, I don't even whistle through graveyards. But the math intrigues me....She was 38 when I was born and 63 when she died. I'm 63 now and it was 38 years ago she died. A little too ironic. And we were both retiring....ok, I am a little superstitious. Plus, I have all these wierd blood tests and stuff to deal with in the next few weeks. If I make it past Monday, I'll feel better....

My birthday is always a little sad since I remember how close my mother died to when I turned 25. Two days. 4/19/72. And this one is a tad wierd, given the 38/63 stuff....

I'll be fine.

I was with my mother when she died. The doctor had warned my father and I (who were not getting on too well at the time) that she might seem to regain consciousness but it was merely a reaction and she was already quite brain dead...stokes and kidney failure and a comotose state.

My father and I were with her and she did exactly what the doctor told us she might do--she sat up and seemed to look around and then fell back on her pillow, dead.

My father, in spite of all the advanced warnings, thought she could see us, hear us, communicate with us and started calling out her name: "Cleo! Cleo! Cleo!" he called. Then she died.

We stood silently for a few minutes.

"She heard me, didn't she, Jimmy?" My father asked.

And in the worst thing I've done--and I've done horrible things in my life--I said, "No, she didn't."

I'd give anything to have that moment back and say, "Oh, Dad, she heard you, she knew you loved her, she died with your voice in her heart...."

And I can't go back and do that.

Instead I said, "No" and he wept and offered me 40 dollars to buy some shoes that would be fit for the funeral and I told him that wasn't enough because I was insulted that he didn't find my shoes worthy and was thinking of my shoes instead of his dead wife and I was so angry that my mother had died instead of him.

So, this time of my natal joy is muted by a memory like that....

Like I warned you, an overshare.....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.