“Your mom is very sick.” After five years of marriage, I can read the tension on Eric’s face and feel it across the kitchen table in the grasp of his hands.
“And?” I ask. I know there is bad news to come. News that I don’t want to hear.
“Maybe you would like a cool drink. It’s been a hot day,” Eric stalls. We are in the middle of a heatwave and yet I feel a chill run down my spine.
“No. I think I know what you’re going to say.” I had been visiting Mom at Letterman Army Medical Center at Presidio of San Francisco for months, watching her fade away. Dad had mentioned a week before that Mom would be going to Stanford University Hospital to be evaluated by Dr. Shumway, a pioneer of heart surgery.
“Your dad called earlier and asked me to tell you something. Dr. Shumway says there is nothing more that they can do.”
Eric moves his chair back as I shift around the table and fall into his tender hug.
Don’t cry, I think. I’m twenty-four years old and can’t dodge the recurrent reminder of Dad’s words, “Big girls don’t cry.”
“How long?” I ask, trying to maintain composure. My temples pulse.
“Maybe a few weeks.” His words trail off as the tears come. His tears. Not mine. There’s a swift kick in my belly as I try to digest the pain. My mother will not live to see this baby, I realize.
Is Dad crying now? Is that why Eric is the one to break this news? Only Eric will witness my tears.
Four months later I sit in stoic silence at the memorial service as Rev. Boring offers words of comfort at Carmel Valley Community Church. It feels odd to have someone other than my father at the pulpit. My sister, a blossoming teenager nine years younger than me, buries her tears in a lump of tissues. I see my older brother brush his tears away on his coat sleeve. My head pounds with backed up tears. Did I imagine Dad’s gasps and sniffles?
After the service, we gather at the house. It was Mom’s dream come true, this house on the hillside above Carmel Valley. With a glass of wine propped on my growing belly, I feel the touch of my mother’s sister. Her hand is on my belly. “You are so strong,” she says. “You will make a good mom.”
The journal is blank and the posts have been zilch for a reason this month.Writing literally became a pain in the a$$. It all began in shortly after Christmas as I sat on the edge of the bed and bent over to tie my shoes. Zing. I felt it from L4 all the way down to my toes, but mostly centered left butt. Too much information perhaps but that’s the way it went down. Sitting, standing, walking, driving, sleeping all became a thing of the past. Ice, heat, physical therapy, doctor visits, sitting on a donut, meds – prescription and OTC – nothing worked. Sitting at the computer to write after working at a desk all day was not an option.
Finally it came to an MRI – visual proof that this was not a figment of my imagination. I wasn’t going to wait for some doctor to see it first. I simply slipped the CD disc into my computer and took a look. After careful comparison to photos at Dr Quack.com I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be sitting in a wheelchair savoring meals on wheels.
Ortho guy studied the CD, watched me limp across the room, tapped here and there, tickled the bottom of my feet and announced “We can fix this slipped disc. All it takes is a needle this long.” His arms extended to fish tale length.
Was he kidding me? Trying to scare the sh*t out of me? My stomach churned. “And, if I do nothing?” I asked adding “I hate needles.”
“It will go away eventually. But why suffer?” he asked.
“I’ll take my chances on a quick recovery,” I commented on my way out the door.
The receptionist handed me a prescription for a Lumbar spine epidural” as I passed her desk. “Call if you change your mind.”
Instead I signed up for some yoga classes. Restorative poses and meditation seemed to be making a difference. I quit taking the pain meds and shopped for a grocery cart full of anti-inflammatory food. I ate turmeric until it poured out my pores.
This morning when I couldn’t see the road through the six foot weeds across my front yard, I decided I had no choice but to tackle the mess. Did I mention I am predisposed to hay fever – it happens every year on Mother’s Day. Like clockwork. But this year it arrived early. I pulled a barrel of thistles before the sneezing began. “Listen to your body” my yoga instructor had said. I stood up slowly, listening carefully. Hmmm. Is it possible? Could it be true? That one sneezing frenzy – was it the cure all?
Knocking on the wooden desk as I finish this piece…