It is not an exaggeration or dramatic license to say that I am not the same person I was three years ago. It’s not just the beard, weight-loss or the ending of an engagement (all things I have been complimented for). The increased cynicism and burn out is only part of it, and I have to be honest here, as “burned out” and “cynical” as I am, I still take extra projects at work, give the kids I work with everything I got AND I still strive to give people the benefit of the doubt.
It was about this time, three years ago, that I was trying to sleep, praying that my mom would make it through the night. I knew that if she could just make it through one more rough night, everything would get better. As I thought that, I knew how selfish I was being. Just hours before, my mom was struggling to tell me not to worry and to be good. My mother should not have had to struggle to talk. My mother could talk to, and befriend anyone. To watch her stutter because of micro tumors made my heart sick. To ask her to put up with that, to even think that, was selfish.
After watching my mom fight cancer for over fourteen years, I knew that the illness wasn’t the only thing taking her away from us. My mom was still lonely. While she was surrounded by some of the greatest people on earth, she missed my dad. I know because she told me, on the sly, how much she missed him. I like to think that she only told me about it, but I don’t doubt she confided in her sisters or my grandmother. Her loneliness and her illness was getting to be too much to bear.
The only person who said anything about that was her doctor. Dr. Gaynor explained everything to my mom, and my aunts, while I was on my way to visit her. My aunts were furious. My mom was at peace. I was in denial.
I knew it as I left her hospital room that she was saying goodbye, but I still hoped that she would pull through.
I got the phone call at about 11:30 that I needed to go to the hospital, that her signs were slipping. I’m not sure if it was my uncle Greg who called or the hospital. I think it was the hospital. I also remember regretting not staying with her like I used to. She told me to go home, as best she could, and for once I listened to her.
I didn’t to below 80 on my drive to Loyola. My badge was on my lap, and if any cop was going to pull me over for reckless driving, I was going to do whatever it took to get them to escort me the rest of the way there. I remember turning off the radio because I didn’t want to hear anything–other than my phone. I called Ginnie, Tony and Jackie, Seth and Jessie..and both Mikes.
I missed her by five goddamn minutes. I knew when I saw the nurses that I was too late. They were laughing and carrying on, but when they saw me, they knew why I was there. We were in the elevator for a total of 30 seconds, and they all gave me that patented nurse look of, “oh sweetie, it’ll be okay.” I wanted to scream at them for it. I didn’t want to be comforted by strangers, I wanted my mom.
My uncle Greg was at Loyola before me, but I was alone with my mom for five minutes. I got to cry in private–as loud as I wanted–and I want to say that I stopped crying when he showed up. I don’t remember how I reacted when everyone showed up at the hospital. I think I pulled it together and started filling out the paperwork.
I know my aunts told me that they wanted to help plan everything, and I immediately acquiesced. When my dad died, I refused to let anyone do anything for his funeral planning. I let Tony and my Mom tell me a few things, but overall, I planned most of it. I wanted my mom to concentrate on getting better. I the rest of my family to take care of my mom. Hell, I promised my dad I would take care of everything if he died. I was not about to delegate any responsibility from my last promise to him.
That night, when we finally left my mom’s hospital room, I went to my old apartment. This was the one I moved out of just before my dad died. Tony, Jackie and Mike still lived there, along with a Kary and Kevin and Jim. I slept on their couch just long enough to be ready to drive and pick up my friends who were flying in to support me.
Three years ago, I had no idea how I was going to get through the next few days, let alone the next few years. This is how I am different. Three years ago, I was still struggling to be like my dad–my role model. While I knew that my mom was the backbone of my family, challenging each and everyone of us to live up to our potential, I was taking her strength for granted. It didn’t take me three years to admit that, or to try and incorporate her strength into who I am, but it has taken me three years to realize how far I have come since she has passed away. Three years to try and be as strong as she was. I don’t know how she did it.
It has also taken me three years to really start and mourn her. I know this isn’t something that is just going to go away with time. All time is going to do is give me more ways of coping with the my loss. At least now I know how to deal with missing her.
I am posting this without proofing. The minute I start to proof it, I will lose my nerve and not post it. That’s not what my mom would have wanted. Granted, my mom would want to know more about the person I bought flowers for than to know how much I missed her, but she would appreciate any writing I did.
Tomorrow (actually 10 hours from now) I am going to my parent’s grave by myself. I’ll let them know then and there what is new in my life. It isn’t even a poor substitute for actually talking to them, but it is something that I have to do. Following that, Tony and I, in typical Gleason fashion, are going to drink red wine and enjoy each other’s company. I believe I may need a chaperone.