One More Day

Thursday, June 25, 2015 8 No tags Permalink 0

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My younger brother Andrew flew to New York in June 2009 and brought Michael home. To our mom’s. Michael, whose mind was as wobbly and as weak as his body, thought that he was simply taking his one-month yearly vacation in Florida, beach, restaurants, family. Little did he realize, although we knew, that he would be staying, never to return to New York. It was his final trip home.

But that’s beside the point. The point being, I should have flown back to see him, spend time with him, help care for him. But I didn’t. As the summer flowed by, I would get on skype and visit with the family, and there Michael would be, sitting in a chair in the background. He would wave hello to me and smile, almost like old times, almost like normal. And my mom would say “Jamie says she’s coming to visit! Do you want her to visit?” and he would nod his head enthusiastically, eyes open wide, grin spread across his face. And still I didn’t go. And I told my sister, well, I will come for the end of the year holidays! I’ll book my ticket! And she would say, I don’t think he’s going to last until the end of the year. Come sooner. And I said, November? I can get away in November. Then October. And then, as September slid in bringing that subtle change of air and sky, hinting of schoolbooks and autumn leaves and new clothes, she said, Come now! And I didn’t. And then it was too late and I was boarding the plane for a funeral.

I didn’t go because I was scared. I couldn’t face my brother, my big, smart, strong brother in that shape, sickly and dying. I know that I should have been there to talk to him, feed him spoonfuls of applesauce when applesauce was all that he could get down, the spoon too heavy for him to hold and carry to his own mouth. I should have been the one to hold his hand as he struggled and gasped his last breath. But I couldn’t see him like that. That is selfish, but that is the way it is.

I also thought, an idea tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind, that my visit would bring about the end that much sooner. If I only held off a few more months, a few more weeks, a few more days, then so would he. I heard the phone ring as I slid down under the bubbles late that September night, about 10 o’clock, feeling the boiling water sting my skin, and I knew who was calling, what they were telling my husband who had answered.

And now my mother is in the hospital. Tiny, frail, birdlike in her old age, she is huddled in a hospital bed, confused, not understanding what happened to her that she should be in the hospital, not knowing how long she has been there. Fragile.

The excuses for not flying over there have varied, kids, family, not enough time there is never enough time, to hotel how can I leave in the middle of high season we are booked solid seven days a week there is no one to replace me. My passport is nearing expiration. I was planning on coming in November when the hotel is on winter hiatus. My brother and sister keep me updated though it has only been a couple of days, but my heart hurts and I feel that I should be there with her. My mom.

Jean-Pierre looked at me over dinner and said, eyes turned down towards his plate, It is an awfully weird feeling when you have lost both your parents, without your parents. Nothing can be weirder than when you have lost a sibling, I replied. He looked up, and our eyes met and he gently shook his head as if to say You’ll see what I mean.

Guilt. The guilt of not being there, of feeling so responsible for another person, another soul, responsible for their wellbeing, comfort, and happiness. Sadness. The utter depth of sadness that sweeps over you, clings to your very being when you think of losing someone whom you love so much. A sadness so deep it burns, yet is unfathomable, impossible to grasp the concept, the idea of the thing. And so very hard to face that we often turn away, make excuses so as not to face the unthinkable.

And now my mom. I hope that they’ll find out what happened and can put her on her feet and send her home where I will find her in November when the hotel closes for winter break and we’ll watch tv together, sit side by side in the backyard and watch Buster chase the ball, pop frozen dinners in the microwave and spend a couple hours at the mall shopping. Same as always.

  • Judy at My Well Seasoned Life
    June 25, 2015

    It’s so very hard to face one’s fear of death of a loved one. My mom is frail from age and the ravages of Parkinson’s. At first I was nervous about tending to her needs–changing her sheets, bathing her. She is embarrassed that she needs the help and asks me if I mind. My reply is, “Did you mind caring for me as a child?” Sometimes I joke about “payback being a bitch”. But in reality, the action of caring lets me know that I’m doing all I can, and in doing so, I grow closer to her.

    I don’t feel guilty. She is in NJ and I in LA, I can only visit two or three times a year. But I don’t feel guilty. I do the best I can.

    Life’s natural progression is death. Yes, I will miss her when she passes. Yet I will carry her love of singing old songs, cooking, and smart alack retorts with me until I pass…with the hope that someone carries some of my uniqueness in their heart, as I’m sure you do with your brother and will do with your mother. Hang in there. You can only do the best you can.

  • Tanna
    June 25, 2015

    Oh heavens Jamie … you have my heart.

  • Pat Fusco
    June 25, 2015

    Strong words,..almost lacerating. I recognize them because I have been there. My father’s death came quickly, but I was able to be with him a day or two before he died. My mother’s decline and death were very much part of my life, with my being the one responsible for all her needs until the last. My brother died in the blink of an eye, suddenly. He just….left us. In each of these the pain was equally searing. We have no script for these times and I can only send you wishes for strength when you need at most and peace, because you deserve it. As a poet friend of mine wrote, “There is no easy way to travel.”

  • Wendy Read
    June 26, 2015

    I have been living as an orphan. My Mom went in 1991 when I was 34 years old and my father left in 2003 . The loss was crushing even though I had my own child and family. We are never ready Jamie. I hope for a speedy recovery for your Mom. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do or any support that I can give you. We are not far from your Mother, where I live here in Florida. I would be so glad to lend you support. She would not want you to feel guilty, you know that, but I know that it does not take away from your pain and longing to be with her. I would hug you if we were closer.

  • Jean
    June 26, 2015

    Both your brother and your mother would probably understand why you can’t just drop everything and pop across the ocean to see them.
    I do hope you get to spend time with her later in the year, but if not don’t torture yourself about it. We have to deal with what ever life throws at us the best we can and in my experience crises never occur when it would be easy to deal with them.

  • Nancy
    June 28, 2015

    Jamie. I have been following u for sometime. I identify with ur dilemma but want to urge u that there should be no dilemma. I left my family in New Jersey at age 18 to live in Israel and till this day, 36 years later, most of my family still lives there. It doesn’t have to be a long trip as crazy as that sounds. You can go for a few days. Go and give your mother a hug and a kiss. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

  • SallyBR
    July 13, 2015

    I found your blog today, subscribed right after reading the recipe for the mini=quiches and pine nut crust.

    I did not expect to see this post right underneath it, not when I am dealing with stuff that is so painfully similar to what you described. I emigrated from Brazil over 20 years ago, and there is always a guilt associated with leaving our own country. Made worse, much worse, when things don’t go well “back home”.

    you are not alone in your feelings and struggles. I will leave it at that, and wish you all the best….

  • Elizabeth
    July 17, 2015

    Oh Jamie! I’ve been negligent and self-absorbed and am just now reading more than the introduction to this post. It’s so hard to be far away and feel so helpless, isn’t it?

    Please don’t beat yourself up; your love for all of your family is very clear and even though you aren’t right beside your mother right now, she’s bound to feel your spiritual presence with her always. Hang in there.