Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Did I invoke my mother last night by writing about her? Oh, who knows but it was another one of those dreams that's set me in a low place this morning. She comes back from the dead. She looks, quite frankly, great! In the dream she was so mean to a worker in a place we were staying. I went to apologize to him. I said,"Look, she died, she came back and now I have to deal with her and she's just a mean old woman and I'm so sorry."
I thought about that this morning. She was NOT a mean old woman, right? But then I remembered her last weeks and how she railed and accused the nurses at the hospital of being in on the scheme to steal all of her money and to keep her from escaping and yes, she had dementia and she'd broken her ribs and she was in pain and on drugs and it was horrible and she accused my brother and me of the same thing and then, when she left the hospital and went into the assisted living's care ward, the last time I saw her she apologized for her behavior towards my brother and when I said, "You said some ugly things to me, too," she set her lips and didn't say a word.
And railed at the nurse's aid there because the woman would not bring her prunes.
Oh god. It was awful.
And that was the last time I saw my mother alive, truly.

Will she ever quit coming back to haunt me? Or, to be more accurate, will I ever let my failure to ease her pain, to make her happy, not only in her last days but for my entire life, go?
Will I ever accept that it was not really my job? That it was impossible? That she had her own problems, her own pain, her own fucking issues that were not mine to bear?

I heard Delia Ephron on Fresh Air yesterday and she talked about having an alcoholic mother and although my mother was fiercely anti-drinking (it was my father who was the drunk) I recognized so much of what she said about life as a child with her mother. The constant fear, the constant terror, trying so hard to figure out how she, the child, could make it better for her mother.
Exactly like that.
While Delia was diluting the liquor in her mother's bottles, I was trying to do everything perfectly, to be helpful and kind and to KEEP THE SECRETS and then my stepfather came along and there were more secrets so add that to the mix and Delia also mentioned that the child should not be the parent, that the parent should protect the child, that some secrets should not be kept and, well, there you go.

The dream.

Oh Mama. I'm so sorry your life was so hard. And I am more than sorry that when you died that damn DNR form (your totem, that form, you carried it everywhere) was not there in your chart but a few hundred yards away and they had to do CPR and they had to call the ambulance and they shocked you and put lines in you and it was your worst nightmare, the one you had spent half your life trying to prevent, come to pass, a peaceful, much begged for death thwarted with needles and electricity and drugs and pain, more pain...those ribs still healing, it must have been agony.

Oh Mama.

And all I could do when they finally took all the lines out, when they gave you the morphine, was to hold your hand and chant the names of your children and grandchildren. To promise you that you would live on in them, I stood by your not-even-a-bed in that small room in the hospital's ER, my husband and my brother waiting in the hallway having said their last words to you, just you and me and the song Sister Morphine played in my head and I held your hand and finally, you took your last breath.

Soon it will have been a year.

And what a year it's been.

When I woke up it was raining but it's clearing now. Birds are singing. It is over seventy degrees and it is humid. The strangest winter I can remember. Yes, we live in Florida but not Key West. Probably farther from Key West to Lloyd than it is from Key West to Cozumel. I don't know. I could look it up. Who cares? The point being, it is so warm and it's odd.

The state of Florida allowed a Nativity scene to go up at the State Capitol and so now someone has applied under whatever rules and regulations there are to put up a Festivus Pole made of crushed Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. 

For some reason this cheers me. The rules are the rules. But oh, how the Holy Saved are going to complain. In one of the essays in that book by Michael Chabon he says that yes, he's all for putting the Christ back into Christmas but wouldn't that necessarily mean taking out Santa Claus and all the elves and the Frosty The Snowman special and all of that stuff which has nothing to do with Christ at all? Sarah Palin has recently and famously said that she loves the commercialization of Christmas because it brings forth more cheer and it is the jolliest holiday of the year! 
Things like this stagger my mind, especially when I consider the fact that it was a real possibility at one point that this very same woman could have ended up as our president if history had taken just a few different turns.

Well, Festivus for the rest of us.

My boys are coming out this afternoon.

It is Emily Dickinson's birthday today. I will leave it to the poets among us to give us some of her words.

I wish I was at the beach watching the gray waves roll in, edged with white against the gray sky.

Brothers- we should go and sprinkle our mother's ashes.

Here comes a train. It will be mournful and scary at the same time. And then it will pass.


  1. This made me cry. How you can be so tender toward her still. How you were. How you held her hand. Beautiful writing. Yes, the train.
    It's snowing here.

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  3. I'm with Bethany on all counts. Whew. What a year it has been, as you say. It's all still so close even though it has been a year, and the last weeks were so tangled in agony and sadness and it would be impossible NOT to be feeling all the emotions that you do about it even still. And maybe always. Kiss the boys a hundred times today and sleep dreamless sleep tonight.

  4. Yes, she'll stop haunting you. The whole DNR thing doesn't help. In my case, it was failing to resuscitate her, and the panic, even failing to come see her on the way home from my wedding, leaving her alone while I was there, messing it all up.

    At first I couldn't look at ambulances without crying, I was just guilt and pain wracked. It gets better - but not the first year, the first anniversary is a huge time, it can be just as fresh. Grief over lost parents ebbs and flows, takes a long time to get still.

    I got hit with some sadness when I opened a box of her leftover Christmas cards and found some labels with her name and address on them. That stuff gets less and less hard to take, though. It really does.

  5. I got nothing on the Mom front.
    But, we're doing "Festivus" this year. I'm having issues finding a suitable pole though. Working on those grievances.
    And this suggestion came from one of the sisters-in-law who, last time I checked, is Catholic! OK, whatever.
    I'm confident I can hold my own in the "Feats of Strength" end of things. Should be fun.

  6. This made me cry too. So terrible and beautiful. My grandmother, Mary K, died a year and 8 months ago. My mom had a dream that Mary K (her mom)called her from the afterlife, angry about how my mom had spent the little money she inherited. My mom told me that sometimes she just says "mom" out loud for no reason. When grandma was dying, a priest was brought in to do the Lutheran blessings, but in my moment alone with her, I just read her Mary Oliver poems.

    Thank you for this beautiful piece.

  7. Your heart was broken back when you were a child keeping the secrets and you are mending it still. Love.

  8. It amazes me that you can write about your mother, your relationship with all of its painful complexity, and her death with the botched DNR so clearly. Maybe the dreams are delivering some of that clarity. Such a terrific post, Mrs. Moon.

    I hope your day held poetry and festiveness with those boys!

  9. I have had dreams about my Mother too. The 1 year anniversary of her death was yesterday. I am haunted about how I reacted to being her caregiver, I should have been nicer, but I was always pushing her to do her therapy, eat more, drink more, etc. Now that I look back, I should have just let it be, she was 95 and that was a good long life.

  10. Emily wrote: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” I have been thinking a lot about my parents and my wife's parents who were like parents to me also. It's all so raw at times. I try not to go there, and when I do, I focus on the good things and not the terrible last few months of their lives. With my parents, death came suddenly so I had no time to adjust. It was all grieving--acute pain. With C's parents, it was the gradual decline that seemed to go on and on. Terrible to see.
    Focus on the sweet things of life, Mary. So much of it is sweet.

  11. When my mom died, I lost whatever threads of love I had with the rest of my family as well, so I truly became an orphan. Sometimes the sadness of this will rock me straight to my core and I cry harder than I ever think is humanly possible.
    Loss is so damn painful.
    I had an early morning dream that the contents of my purse were stolen while I was helping this group hand out information about HIV. The only card I was concerned with was my library card. I woke up disturbed by this,

  12. This was one of the most beautiful posts you've ever written -- every single word.

  13. Bethany- As time passes, I can, on some levels, feel more tender towards both my mother and me. I am grateful for that.

    SJ- I did kiss those boys a million times. Or at least Gibson. Owen is stingy these days. They are the best medicine. And I know- some things you never really "get over". There is no such thing.

    Jo- Why doesn't our culture value and help us with a good death more? We just ignore death and try to avoid it both for ourselves and our loved ones and it does no good for any of us.
    Time does help.

    Bob- I love the "airing of grievances" thing. I may have to skip the feats of strength though.

    Ms. Vesuvius- I wouldn't mind if someone read me Mary Oliver poems as I was dying. That is a beautiful image.

    Angella- I don't think it will ever truly be mended. Or, at least, the scar tissue will ever disappear. But you know- it's okay. We all have some. Every one of us. This is being a human.

    Denise- And so it did! Thank you. I doubt I will ever forget Mother's death. And you know, that night I wrote it all down in a semi-drunken fit of automatic writing. I have it if I need it.

    Gail- You didn't know. You did, I am certain, the best you could. Be gentle with yourself.

    Syd- I try. Every day. I do, I swear. Thank you for being such a constant friend here.

    heartinhand- Ah...that says a lot. Your library card. I sometimes, when my heart is absolutely the saddest, cry about the loss of my father and that was when I was five. It is the most profound sadness in my soul.

    Elizabeth- I adore you. Thank you.


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