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Days

6:30am
The alarm on my cell phone rings. As I reach over to turn it off, I think, “OK, I made it through another night without any middle-of -the-night phone calls.”

A new day begins.

My schedule here at Monroe Village is pretty much the same each day: Wake up at 6:30, shower, get dressed, put on my face and by 8:30 or so head out the door to the “cafe” for my complementary breakfast. I’m a regular there so all I have to do is show up, for Laurie or Michael to see me and say “the usual?” and in a few minutes there are 2 eggs, scrambled, with toast, bacon and a cup of fruit on my table. I get the coffee myself.

By the time I get to my mom’s room, they have already served her a breakfast of various colored puréed foods of which they managed to feed her a small portion.

I go over to her bed and say hi to her. I stroke her cheek, trying to get her to see me. Often she is talking out loud when I come in but not speaking any real words, rather just some kind of nonsense mixed with moans and crying. Sometimes when I say her name Evelyn, she manages to respond with a weak “yes” so I feel that she is in there somewhere. But she no longer has much ability to express what is going on inside her. I think of the Science Fiction story by Harlan Ellison called, ‘‘I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream’’.

The rest of my day is spent there in her room. I feed her lunch, give her something to drink. While she sleeps I often sit at my computer but when she is awake I mostly sit by her side, talking to her, trying to reassure her, to calm her. Often I just sit there looking at her. And I think. And the thoughts are not good ones. They make me feel like a terrible person, a terrible daughter, self-centered and selfish.

And this is what I think: Three weeks ago, my mother’s doctor told me she had a few days to a week to live. Within days I rushed over here. And that was 3 weeks ago. And here I still sit, by her side, waiting, waiting, waiting…… Why is she still alive? How long will she live? My time here in New Jersey has a limit. She needs to die before I have to leave and I need to have time to organize a funeral. And I feel like a terrible terrible person – that I want my mother to die. I try to convince myself that I am thinking of her. That it must be horrible for her to just lie there, unable to move or talk or to be truly alive. But really its me that I am concerned about.

And as I sit there, trying to spoon baby food into her mouth, I sit there with this terrible weight of guilt on my back. And yet, at the exact same time I also know that I am being a good daughter.

What one feels and what one knows to be rational and true are not always the same thing. You can feel one thing and at the exact same time think something completely different. Is this the kind of complexity that makes us truly human?

And then another day is over.


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