Saturday, September 26, 2015

How I spent my summer vacation... and why I never came back

On July 3rd, my birthday, I hung up from a phone call with my mother in Missouri. She was in the hospital recovering from a surgery that had gone well. The surgery had been unexpected, cancer had been detected only the day before and was understandably a little weepy. She had reminisced about the day 42 years previous when she had held her baby son and now I was two thousand miles away and she didn't even have a teddy bear to hold on my birthday.

She told me she loved me. I told her her the same. After a lifetime as the difficult child, we had long ago come to terms with ourselves and each other and had developed a great, warm, relationship. 

I already had a plane ticket to depart for home a week later. I'd be there to take care of her as she convalesced and for a bit after. I even went out and bought her a teddy bear to take with me.

For the past few years and especially since my dad died, I've made a point of getting home at least once a year. A previously-planned trip home that was originally going to involve wandering the streets of my hometown with a video camera to show you, my loyal readers, the town that filtered through my subconscious to became Howard Carter's Sedville.

I had a plan, you see.

As John Lennon said, life is what happens while you're making other plans. Because life -- even your life -- is not really about you.

It was the last coherent conversation I ever had with my mother.

A text from my sister alerted me that something had gone wrong. Stand by. She's had a brain aneurysm. She's being put on a helicopter and flown to Saint Louis. Get on a plane. Now.

Those were the longest days of my life, full of hurry up and stand still. Airports. Hospitals. Waiting rooms. Intensive Care. Moments of lucidity when she told us she was afraid. Told us she loved us. Asked us to sing hymns for her. Hugs from nurses. Terrifying medical procedures undertaken by increasingly desperate-sounding physicians in one of America's finest centers for neurological trauma. Moments of exhausted unconsciousness in waiting room chairs that could only charitably be called sleep.

In the early morning of July 11th, we lost our battle to keep her with us. 

The doctors and nurses wept with us at her bedside. 

She was that kind of lady.

Her last words to me were "I love you."

She was that kind of lady.

After that, it was opening safe deposit boxes, bizarre meetings with lawyers and funeral homes and florists, choosing from the many who offered to be pallbearers, talking to ministers and local dignitaries, and realizing as the well wishes and casseroles came in just how big the ripples were from my mother's death.

And I haven't felt much like writing since.

There are so many things I'd planned to do with her. So many somedays that I thought were ahead, and the crushing fact of the matter is: today is always someday.

So, I'm back or will be, as I slowly and carefully walk through the shut-off wing of my mind where the writing comes from, turning on the lights, taking the dustcovers off the furniture, and fishing around in the couch cushions for the lost thoughts and dreams that I let fall when the call came in.

Just because life is what happens while we're making other plans doesn't mean we stop making plans; it means we realize that today is the someday we were looking for and everything we put off until now has come due.


My mother, my sister, and I discussing a Thanksgiving turkey. I love this photo.


  1. Well, it looks like you've gotten your groove back! Keep on writing – it can help you heal. -Lori Mentele

  2. Your mom was an amazing lady. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Your mom was an amazing lady. I spent time with her while I was in school. She's one of the primary reasons why I chose to become a paramedic, and go to nursing school. I am so sorry for your loss. She was truly an angel on Earth.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).