It has now been two years since Mom died. Not passed away or no longer with us. She is dead. And it hurts to the point that I feel like my body cannot contain this grief. It spills out of my mouth when I am angry. I want to look at people and say, “Fuck you my mom is dead.” It spills out of my eyes in a current of tears while I’m driving. The grief is balled up in my clenched fists. It escapes through the nervous tapping of my feet. She is gone and at times that feels unbearable. Even with the grief though, I feel lucky. I am lucky to have had her for 36 years. I am lucky that I got to shave her legs.
Before she left for Arkamecca I shaved her legs. We sat in a cold and dark hospital and I washed her hair with dry hair shampoo. I wrapped her shoulders with towels so that her gown wouldn’t get wet. I filled up a puke bucket with warm water and soaped down her back. Her stomach was swollen with fluid but her back was so thin. I remember being shocked that I could see her bones so clearly and I remember telling myself to not react. We soaped her underarms and chest and dried them with soft pats. I refilled the bucket and soaped up her legs. I scrapped the razor up her legs removing the little black hairs. She told me over and over that I shouldn’t be doing this for her. I said that she would do the same for me. She said that this was different and I said, “No, Momma it isn’t.”
I left the hospital that night not knowing that it would be the last time I would see her alive. Kara was able to see her the next day before she flew to Arkansas. That afternoon I called Mom and she asked when I thought Dad would get to the hospital. I told her that it would be a few hours. She said, “He needs to hurry. I have to pee.” This was the very essence of Mom; she didn’t want to bother anyone at the hospital. She never wanted to be a bother. I told her that I loved her and she asked me to check on Kara because “she seemed upset.” This happened on a Monday; on Friday she was gone. She was gone but at least her legs were somewhat smooth. Even as sick as she was, she remained just a little vain and I not so secretly think that her last words were, “root lifter.” She loved her hair product and her Oil of Olay. I know she was pleased when the funeral director said she had great bone structure. Her vanity wasn’t off-putting, it wasn’t the “I’m better then you” variety. This vanity was pride in neatness and her home. Her vanity was really a pride that comes from growing up poor, and wanting to take care of your things when you are older.
I am sure you didn’t know this, but Mom was convinced she created racquetball. She grew up on a farm she was born to leave. Many hours of her childhood were spent bouncing a ball off the side of the house, catching and batting at it. She joined every school organization she could just for extra time in town. She rotated her dolls out so that no one doll was ever jealous of the others. She was quirky and interesting. As she got sicker, she and I talked one Sunday afternoon. She cried and told me she wanted to go home to see her parents. Her parents had been dead for years. She said that she no longer cared about her things and that she would miss us, but that she wanted her Mom. I was blunt with her and told her the truth. “Momma, you are dying. We are going to send you to Arkansas and they are going to do things that make you sicker, but then they will fix you and you won’t be dying anymore.” While we had the conversation I tried not to react, thinking, “Do not cry. Do not cry.” The hot grief built up in my throat and tasted of bile. Arkansas didn’t have time to fix her, her heart and body were too broken for them to fix. She died with Dad next to her.
This time of year everything is secondary to the grief. I couldn’t give a damn about the news, the house, work, or school. This time of year my panic attacks get a little worse and I want to hurt myself a little because physical pain is so much better than emotional. I will think about tattoos and how the hot scrape will make me feel better. How I will wear my tattoos as a shield. They will protect me from the outside hurt. I will wait for May to end. Kara, Dad, and I will laugh about Mom and then we will cry. May will end and the cycle will start over again.