Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Eleven-Year "Glitch", Part Two

(Recently, I was nominated in the categories "Happiest Blog" and "Most Inspirational Blog" on the "Share the Love Blog Awards". Since I didn't win in either category, I felt that it was okay to post this somewhat melancholy story!)



I guess I should go back in time just a little to explain the circumstances regarding my birth (okay, so that’s going back more than “just a little”). My parents married when my mom was 19 and my dad was 23. A year later, my brother was born. My parents, who both came from families with four children, tried for years to have another child. Both of them went through testing to determine if there was some sort of physical problem as to why my mother couldn’t conceive. After years of being told that there was nothing wrong with either one of them, they gave up trying and accepted that their son would not have a sibling.

When my mom was 36, she had something called an “umbilical cyst” removed from her abdomen. A short time later, she found herself pregnant—with me. Needless to say, it was almost like the Second Coming when I was born! My parents were overjoyed, and I was spoiled something terrible, not necessarily with physical things, but with getting my own way (the phrase, “Can I have some cheese and crackers with that whine?” comes to mind).

That being said, I became a lazy kid—and I got even worse as I entered my teens. Why bother cleaning my room when my mom would eventually do it anyway, because she hated a mess? I didn’t have time to help her cook or do the dishes—I was too busy with my social life—and she never really pressed the issue, anyway. To ease my guilt (I guess I actually had some kind of conscience and wasn’t a total monster), I would tell myself that she liked everything done her way anyhow, so what was the use of even trying?

The years went on, and my mom continued to do everything for me…and I continued to go on my merry, selfish way. I remember her saying that she got me into “Driver’s Ed” a semester early so that I would be able to drive her around (she never drove due to “macular degeneration” and there was no such thing as “Lasik” surgery back then). What’s sad to me is that I can remember driving my friends everywhere—sometimes even in a compromised condition—but I really can’t remember my mom sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I know I must have driven her around sometimes…I must have. But I can’t remember.

The height of my self-centeredness came the night that my mom gathered our little family together to tell us that she had cancer. She was upset, and so was everyone else…but in pure Scarnato fashion, my brother went back to his apartment emotionless; my dad poured himself a drink; and I asked my mom if she would mind if I didn’t cancel my plans to go out “clubbing” that night…after all, it was Friday. She looked at me in a way that reflected sadness and expectancy. She wasn’t shocked at my request, nor did she ever want to disappoint me in any way. I left the house feeling a twinge of guilt, and proceeded to drown my sorrows on the dance floor and in a glass. I was well aware of how much I sucked as a human being that night.

That was when I was 20. For the next 2 years, my mother dealt with chemo, radiation, hair loss, weight loss, even friend-loss (you truly find out who your friends are when you’re sick). My brother’s wife, who lived upstairs in our two family home with my brother and their two kids, took on most of my mom’s responsibilities, including cooking and washing the clothes. Sadly, I have no recollection of why I wasn’t doing those things back then. Perhaps I was too busy running away and holding on to any semblance of my spoiled existence. It may have even been possible that I knew that she would die, and I’d be left with all of the responsibility for my dad and myself—and that was too harsh a reality to face. I can recall yelling at her to get off the couch and fight for her life…asking her why she was just laying there, day after day, waiting to die. Begging her to go to Sloan Kettering, by far the best cancer research hospital in our area, perhaps even the entire country. She refused, saying it was too much for her, and I shouldn’t worry because her doctor knew what he was doing. I questioned myself as to why I was pleading with her to get off the couch. I knew I really wanted her to get well; no matter how I behaved, I loved my mother. But sometimes I get a sick feeling in my soul that maybe I needed her to get better so that MY life could go back to normal.

I finally began driving my mother around…not to the stores or to a friend’s house as I could have before…but to the hospital for testing, or the doctor’s office, or to an occasional treatment. Why didn’t I ever drive her to a restaurant for lunch when she was well? Why did I always give her a hard time? Why was I so damned difficult and selfish? While the “why’s” fell down upon me like cold, hard sleet, my mom’s condition started to deteriorate. The end was drawing near and not one person in my house was prepared for it.

There was a round-the-clock nurse at our home, a lovely woman who supported the family and eased our burden. My mom’s condition was to the point that when she took a breath in, she exhaled a moan of pain. Constantly. It was the most horrifying thing to listen to, knowing full well that we were all helpless to comfort her. I used to pray at night to God that if He wasn’t going to let a bolt of lightening strike her and cure her, could He just take her home with Him so that she could finally be in peace? Again, the guilt engulfed me, as I wondered whose pain was going to be eased more if she died—hers or mine.

The last day of her life is both lucid and a blur. I know that, after a fight with the oncologist and a prescription for an increased dosage of Morphine from our own family physician, my mom’s pain started to subside. Her moaning decreased, but her visions increased—she was muttering “Hi, Mom” about an hour before she passed, apparently to her mother who had died seven years earlier. I know that there were family members around, people sitting all over our living room while the clock ticked, making small talk about anything and nothing at all. I know it was a beautiful, dry, hot first day of August, and that I took a walk to the hairdresser down the block where my cousin was getting her hair cut. I remember thinking how clear and blue the sky looked, and how fresh the air smelled. My cousin drove me home, and I remember when we walked in the door that I didn’t hear my mom anymore…and I thought she had passed while I was gone.

The nurse called me into the room and told me that my mom had a few minutes left. I looked at her frail little body, so weak and yet so beautiful. I kissed her forehead that had the aroma of peaches or some kind of fruit…I’m not sure what it was, but she smelled like that often during her last few weeks. I spoke to her gently and told her I loved her. I told her some other things that I just can’t remember. But when I touched her arm, it felt cold. I noticed that her chest was barely moving. A wave of something came over me—I’m not sure if it was fear, sorrow or regret—and I started wailing, “Mommy!! Mommy!! Don’t leave me!!” To this day I don’t remember who dragged me out of the room. But two minutes later, the nurse came out, walked directly over to me, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “Lisa, I think she’s gone now.” That was it. It was over.

My mom died on a Thursday. Since the cemeteries on Long Island don’t bury the deceased on Sunday, and we needed time for our relatives from California to come out, we decided to bury her on Monday. I say “we”, because at some point in the last few weeks of my mother’s life, I became somewhat responsible. This became apparent the day after her death, when we went to the funeral home to make arrangements. I went with my dad, my brother and one of my uncles, who supposedly came with us for “moral support”, but did little more than sit in the office in a drunken stupor. As the funeral director spewed out various necessities to us in succession, I noticed my father becoming more and more confused. At one point, he looked at me and said, “What do you think?” With those four words, I entered into adulthood.

I took control of everything from that moment on, from picking out the casket to lending the director a picture of my mother and telling him, “Make her look like that.” I held my head up high at her SRO wake, welcoming long-lost friends and relatives, dealing with a godmother I never knew that I had and chuckling over an ex-boyfriend who cried harder than I did. I was strong that day, and in the days that followed. I felt different. Life, as I knew it, was over. I was now a full-fledged grown-up, and there was no turning back.

(The third installment of "The Eleven-Year Glitch" will be posted next week.)

25 comments:

Matty said...

Lisa,
I'm so sorry you didn't win! Hopefully next year!
I enjoy your writing so much.
Isn't it odd that when someone close to us dies,,we think of all the things we should have done and didn't do! I'm sure your mom knew she was well-loved.
Now I have to wait a whole week for the 3rd installment??

Big Dave T said...

I remember voting for you when I saw your name. Tried to vote more than once, but the program wouldn't let me. No fair!

That's a touching remembrance. I remember when my mother-in-law died, my sons (who were about your age in this blog) couldn't understand why their grandmother didn't pull out all the stops in her own battle against cancer. She was too old, too tired to fight it.

I think everyone wishes they might have done things differently in their carefree youth. That theme is echoed in that Kenny Chesney song, "I'd done a lot of things different." Think that's the name of it. Pretty song.

Summer said...

Lisa, that was so so sad...i cried reading it! i am sorry that your mother had to suffer, may God rest her soul, i am sure she is in a better place now.
There is something good in everything, even death of a loved one...you were always this wonderful person but became more responsible with your mother’s final days...waiting for The third installment. Thanks for sharing!

Carine said...

There's always next year! sorry you've had to deal w/ so much Lisa. Makes my MIL moving 3 miles away seem tame. Okay, not tame, but well maybe manageable?
sorta.

Lisa said...

Matty,

I was so happy just to be nominated in the first place--I didn't even know "blog" awards existed--so I'm not upset that I didn't win. I just thought it was ironic that I was nominated in such uplifting categories, and here I go depressing everyone with this post! That's why I mentioned it. ;)

The third post is not really cheerful, either, but I'm pretty sure I can inject some humor into it--it depends on whose feelings I don't care if I hurt--if they ever find my blog!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Dave,

Thanks for the vote, that was really sweet--as I mentioned to Matty, I was just happy that someone thought to nominate me!

My mom was only 57 when she got sick, and died when she was 59 (I was 22 at the time). Unlike your mother-in-law, she wasn't what I would consider "too old" in any manner and I think that's what got to me. Especially now that I'm 44--oops, another "eleventh" year!-I still feel so young!

I'll have to listen to that Kenny Chesney song...if I can find it on the internet. They took the only country station we had away about three years ago here in metro NY, and I sorely miss it. Love how each song tells a story, unlike the pop stations where every single song is about sex. Every single one.

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Summer,

Looking back, I know I wasn't a horrible kid. I loved my mom and told her often, even if we fought ten minutes before. I just became really selfish in my teens, and I see so much of myself now in my two daughters--and it sickens me to think that I was like that. The boys are different (thank Goodness!)...not as vicious or dramatic.

There is not one day that goes by that I don't think of my mom in some way...and she's been gone half of my life. She was a great woman!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Carine,

We all have our burdens to bear...yes, I went through a lot, but so have you with your RA and so has Kacey with her granddaughter, and look what Matty went through with her grandson! Hopefully, through all of our suffering, we learn something. And sometimes we truly have to look for that lesson, because it's easier to just throw our hands up in the air and say, "Why me?!?"

...Is your MIL moving 3 miles away a good thing, or a bad thing?! That one could go either way!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kacey said...

Dear Lisa, It's unbelieveable that you can look back on your young life and admit that you were spoiled. Young people today seem to feel that they are entitled to be selfish and never pay the piper. I don't think that we ever really believe that our loved ones will die and leave us. I think your Mom wanted to do all the things she did for you, because she loved you so much. I did all the same things for my kids and hope they will remember me when I am gone --- not or my sacrifice, but for my love for them. This is an amazingly honest post. Congratulations --- it could not have been easy to put it into words.

Desiree said...

That is such a heartbreaking story. It must have been really hard for you to lose your mother. Perhaps your miraculous transformation was one final gift to her...

Lisa said...

Kacey,

One thing I remember doing when I was a teen was putting myself in someone else's shoes--even my mom's. Although it didn't stop me from staying out late or doing any of the other things that annoyed her, it did make me accountable to the point that I wouldn't take anything that I did "one step further". My mom and I had a loving relationship, but we argued a great deal, also. I don't ever think that there was a time that she didn't know I loved her...I told her all the time! But I really did some things that, looking back now (and maybe because I have payback from my own daughter), I wish I could change.

Thanks for coming by, and I look forward to seeing a new article from you soon! I miss your posts!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Desiree,

I don't know if I'll ever truly be over the death of my mom...I have learned to live without her for all of these years, but there have been so many times that I just needed to ask her something, or get some maternal advice (I especially felt these pangs when I had children). But life goes on, and I really do believe that I will see her again someday!

As for my transformation, I wouldn't exactly call it miraculous (my mom probably would, however, lol)...I think it's just that I was forced to find out that I was a "fight" person, not a "flight" person at that time. I'm trying to do things differently with my own daughter, so I hopefully don't have to die before she "wakes up"!!

Take good care,
Lisa

Matty said...

Lisa,
I realize that all daughters or most of them have that kind of love/hate relationship. I know I did! As I got older that changed,,and our relationship got better once I was a woman with children of my own.
I had only 2 sons, but I was blessed with a grandaughter and already I see the 'rolling of the eye's,,,and I'm hoping that we will have a different relationship. Right now, its all love and hugs,,,as she just turned 9,,,I know I'm in for it,,,but I hope with the grace of God that I can handle it better. Nobody gets off scot free with a teenager...I don't care how saintly you are. I think we get better at handling the bumps. You gotta know,,,'when to hold em' and when to fold em, I guess.

simply me said...

Li - I love you and your mom. Your writing is so reflective of your personal growth, love and inspiration. Your mom is watching over you always. She is immensely proud of the woman you are. As am I.

BTW, Your son is a delight...also a sign of your wonderment

Lisa said...

Matty,

How true, how true. We all go over the bumps...and as I just told my ex-husband--who gets very frustrated at me when I'm at a loss for what to do about certain things concerning my daughter--a manual didn't pop out along with our babies to tell us exactly how to raise them so that they'll be "perfect" human beings. This is all a "first" for me--and I just have to have faith, and know that I'm trying to do the best that I can. As I'm sure my mom did as well!

You are an amazing woman to be raising those children, and I'm sure that they are going to benefit from anything that you have to share with them.

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Simply me,

Why thank you, and you know that I am extremely proud of all of your major accomplishments, and your son is amazing as well! Any 14 yr. old boy who will hug me and give me a kiss in front of his friends is extremely special. As are you.

xo

nido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nido said...

Lisa: I found your blog through summer's. Hopefuly you'll win next year. As for writing about your mother's suffering, I find you so brave admitting your mistakes. I'm so sorry she had to fight cancer, and I'm sure she was awake enough to see you helping her in her last 2 weeks alive! may God rest her soul in peace. I also hope your daughters wake up soon and start appreciating all what you do for them, before it's too late...

Lisa said...

Nido,

Thank you for your kind words, I really believe that my daughters will become more aware as they get older...I think that's just part of life. I know so many people that have trouble with teenaged girls...they say that you "lose" them from 12 to 20, and then you get them back! I guess that's what I'm hoping for! Thanks for stopping by!

Take good care,
Lisa

Sideways Chica said...

You've broken through a ceiling here chica. Both personally and on the writing front. Tears formed in my eyes, yet my eyes continued to effortlessly fly over the page reading both your prose and your pain.

Someone wise once told me that to be a good writer you couldn't be afraid of revealing yourself to others. Excellent job in my humble opinion.

Having said that, I remember when my father died. I was 15 years old. Life changed. I became an adult and I never looked back. But I did keep his voice with me...and at some point that voice told me to let go of all the little things I felt guilty about not doing for him, or with him, when he was alive.

Ciao bella...be well.

Lisa said...

Teri,

Thank you so much for your kind words. It's funny; when I started writing this, I dredged up feelings that I hadn't felt in ages. I guess I thought that I had dealt with everything already (and maybe, on some level, I did). When I took the time to write about it, though, it seemed like yesterday and I got angry at myself all over again.

About a year after she died, I went to a psychic for the first time. After telling me my life story (she was pretty uncanny, and I went to her several times during the course of my divorce--she was right on the money with so many things), she proceeded to tell me that my mother was very happy where she was...that she was with someone who she loved dearly on this earth (I figured my grandmother, whom she was calling out to at the end) and that she wanted me to know that she was very proud of me. I guess I won't know if any of that is really true or not until I see her again, but hearing that helped me to let go of my guilt and to move on. My whole family has a habit of beating ourselves up more than we have to, and it's something I've worked on throughout the years.

Thanks for coming by and for sharing about the death of your father (and if I'm not mistaken, it was on New Year's Day, like my dad). I can't even imagine what that must've been like for you--right smack in the middle of your teens like that--but you seem to have dealt with it very well. May they all rest in peace!

Take good care,
Lisa

Loving Annie said...

Lisa,
Very powerful post... I too had been very self with my mother for many years. I hope I can make up for it in the time she has left...
Looking forward to visiting your blog again, and reading more. Thank you for sharing so honestly.

Lisa said...

Annie,

Yes, this was a hard one to write. But for all of the selfish times, there were just as many loving moments (as I mentioned in the post, I wasn't totally horrible)! Always appreciate your mom. No matter what, she bore you into this world and that in itself is worth giving her your love and gratitude!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kacey said...

You were way too good for that creep. The only good part of him stayed with you in the custody of the kids. Never let a failed marriage be the measure of your life. You got your groove back with the new hubby. Eat your heart out, D! His name isn't Dennis, is it? My daughter had to throw a Dennis out and she is very sucessful at raising her three boys! Now, we have to wait eleven years for the next chapter in your glitch! Dang!

Lisa said...

Kacey,

Haha...no, it's not Dennis! The "D" spoken of has everything...beautiful house, loads of money, great cars, etc...my current husband has even done work in his house, and admits that it is one of the nicest houses he's ever seen. But my husband is humble; he doesn't care what my ex has, because he got the girl!!

Take good care,
Lisa