Mom had to be at the hospital in mid-town almost before dawn this morning, so that we could get her heart and circulatory system radioactive enough to take a picture.
They wouldn’t let me blog the picture.
I thought a nuclear photo of my own mom would make the coolest blog ever, but it’s is not to be.
While she waited to be radioactive, I ran downstairs to the gift shop to get her a snack (and have a little walk). This was all good and lovely, until I was alone in the elevator. That’s when I flashed back to the months and months at the hospital while my father was dying last year.
It was a nauseating experience, washing over me like an ocean wave.
There was nothing to do but stand there and take it, holding my ground, feeling its full force as it hit, gasping for air when it was too much, and then holding on for dear life when the pull of its gravity as it washed away again tried to take me with it.
A minute later, I was fine.
I am fine.
Mostly. Time and verb tenses are still a little fuzzy, but a girl knows better than to dissociate in public.
I walked to the gift shop, bought a tiny bag of Cheetos for fifty cents just to make my mother smile, and pretended everything is fine, and that the experiences didn’t overlap into actual hospital buildings.
I am not here, today, to say goodbye to my father.
Except I was.
I remembered that as I walked back to where my nuclear mother was waiting.
This is where I was when it was time, after all those months, to say goodbye.
My mother had spinal surgery the week he died, and I had to leave her behind in ICU (in the good keeping of the best visiting teacher ever) to ride down that exact elevator to go to my father’s funeral.
I came back only a few hours later, in my black dress, carrying a bulletin and flower petals instead of a bag of Cheetos.
I was exhausted from the months at the hospital with my father, and overwhelmed by grief, and collapsed not in the safety of my own home but in another hospital, on a cot next to my mother.
It was a brutal experience, and it all came back to me today.
But now is not the same.
I visit my father, and say hello. I am glad for healing, and I love him.
My mother is well and healthy, walking into the hospital and all the way to her waiting room without even needing to lean on me. Her testing is preventative, just to be sure, and no kind of medical crisis.
She is strong now, and we are rested, and Cheetos make us happy.
She lets me take a picture, and we visit while we wait. Sometimes we are quiet, reading side by side, sharing the news of the day and discussing word definitions and making jokes no one else would understand.
When they finally call her back for her testing, I write. I write because I am no longer silenced. I write because I am well and free, free to be me.
As I watch her walk away, and I work, consciously, not to be afraid, I wonder if a nuclear mom eats a Cheeto, does she make it glow?