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After my picture fades & darkness Turns to grey, Watching through windows You're wondering if I'm Ok
Time is a strange concept, the way it stretches and bends, makes life simultaneously feel too long and too short, absurd and profound. The natural split of my life has been "before mom got sick," and "after," but now as the "after" continues to stretch on, I'm realizing just how much continues to change.
The biggest of these shifts is my inability to simply be a daughter, almost never able to sit with her quietly. Every moment is observed, scrutinized, through the eyes of my watchful father, or her diligent caregivers, always hovering, overly attached to the version of her they've created in her absence.
I know they mean well, know they do their best. Most importantly, they are doing the work that I'm not doing, don't want to do--routine changings and bathings and feedings, Hoyer lifting from the hospital bed to the wheelchair to the recliner in the sun room and then back again, every day, until the days inevitably blend together.
They are bored, exhausted, desperate to make sense of something I've had 17 years to accept: that tragic things happen for absolutely no good reason, and even if there was some sound, scientific explanation, like chemicals in the water or the sugar in our food, or the aluminum in our deodorant, or just some dumb luck bad hand of genetics, at this point, it doesn't really matter. At least not for her, anyway.
But what is all this if it's for nothing? And so, inevitably, "care" morphs into a desperate hope to cure. My mother becomes a living momento mori, or some sort of personal penance. They want her to eat more, to take the morphine less, to show that she's in there--blink once if you understand, twice if there's some chance you can come back. Any half-words that escape her lips, any small movement or twitch is a sign that She Is Still There, that somehow She Knows. And the minute I enter her room, they are ready to report these findings, eager to recreate these experiences, keen on subtly (and not subtly) telling me how I should come around more to see her--and them-- and witness this miracle myself.
I wonder why they're remotely comforted by this notion at all--Why would anyone want to believe that somewhere, deep inside, my mom has wholly been present for this purgatory of pureed food and stiff muscles and broken teeth and skin rashes? I think about asking this, but don't. Because while time has not healed all my wounds, it's made me better at discerning when the person in front of me is actively tending to their own. And so I grit my teeth, pinch the inside of my arm, and remember a time when I was just a daughter.