10 March 2003

(Black Journal Excerpt 5 - "As Well As Can Be Expected")

I have written lately, just not in here, and not too much of what's really been happening. Well, that's not true. In some emails, I've really broken it down: to Anna, to Chris, Kathryn. I've saved some. One to Nate. Whenever I write or talk about it, I feel stronger. I mean, when I talk to someone else and they ask how I am, I generally say "well, I'm actually doing well; feeling a lot stronger than I thought I would. I'm just trying to keep my head up, and one thing my mom taught me is to live each day to the fullest and smile, so I'm trying to honor her and be happy. The last thing she'd want is for me to be sad and not enjoy myself, so that's what I'm trying to do- for her, and for me." Then, I smile, and really mean the smile, and I smile inside, too. And I thank my mom for the strength, and I thank God for the strength.

But, there's also dark moments- truly dark moments that are painfully scary. Images in my head that I wish and pray will go away, or at least give me solace rather than utter fear and immense sadness. Images like my mom's eyes the last couple of days she was here breathing. The way her pupils had broken up, clouded like a messy oil painting: yellowed whites, broken browns that seemed too dark, and a patch of brown next to her left pupil. The one on the right had almost swelled or burst, or grew outside of her eye. It made that eye bigger, protruding a bit from her skull. Luckily, she was laying on her right said a bit so it was partially hidden by a pillow. The way her mouth was open and the sound of her erratic breathing. Fluid in her lungs, gurgling breaths with larger and larger spaces in between. Her crying face that night we brought her to the emergency room as I sat with her in bed, hugging her legs, we cried hard together, staring in each other's eyes. And there was a nurse there, too, holding one of her hands. We had cried like that the night I learned it was terminal and she had a month left. Really, that month was 2 weeks; the longest two weeks of my life. Some of those days were the longest and worst years of my life.


Her smile in the last few days was simultaneously the most beautiful, wonderful, perfect and happy image I could ever see in my life, and also the most painful of all to remember because I miss her so terribly much. I miss her smile. I miss everything about her. And I hate how absolutely unfair it is that she's gone.

I've had different experiences since she's passed- some good- most good, actually- but some scary. Sunday- the day after she died- I felt her hug me from behind. I felt it in a tingling presence across my chest and a grabbing of my left shoulder and arm. It wasn't a light tingle. At the time, it was something I really felt, and I reacted almost normally (as if any of this is normal!): I hugged back, putting my arm across where hers was, touching where her hand felt like it was. Other times, both that night and other times during our "shiva," I felt a lightness in the room that could've only been her. Even funny things, like the way I was a frantic host to her friends at our house, making sure everyone had food and that everyone was somehow entertained. I felt like she was doing that through me- or she was watching me- but it was totally unconscious. I realized in retrospect how much I was her, then and always. At the service, Lisa looked in my eyes and remarked quite matter-of-factly and genuinely that I had her spirit. I feel like we were sharing the same energy force sometimes. I was closer to her than anyone, and it's carried over into now.

I've had a few dreams this past week. In one, I was in a kitchen like the one in my parents' house, and we hugged really hard and really long. It was wonderful. In another dream, I was telling her I've been able to be strong cause I've felt she's still around. But then, over the last couple of nights, they've gotten a bit scary. In one, I was in my bedoom, and it was a different set-up with a desk where my bed was. She was sitting there, telling my dad to sign things in his will- certain things so Shana and I would be OK. And, she looked like she was wearing a body, as if her dead body or spirit was underneath the human Barbara clothes. Her eyes looked a little scary, and it was as if her face was loose; at one point, she tugged it a bit like she was fixing a blouse so she'd look good around us! And, last night, we were in a car together- dad, her, and me- driving south on Ridge near Church or Lake, and I was telling her how- in another dream- I told her how I'd been strong strong because she's around. I want to say this was near the gas station where the street jogs to the left along the Metra tracks then into downtown Evanston. Well, the next thing we know, we swerve to avoid a head-on collision: some car is driving the wrong way, heading quickly towards us. And, each car behind us also avoids the accident; that's all I can remember.

But today was dark on and off. I watched "The Ring" on DVD with Jacob and got scared, but I had already had some fucked up, sad thoughts today. It all compiled with scary dreams and two glasses of wine to frighten me and make me cry tonight. Sometimes, in my dark moments, I fear her spirit is in a dark space and I'm feeling sympathy pain. God, I hope not! I get scared of my head sometimes. Things inside, things I want to get rid of: images, fear, sadness, hurt, grief, emptiness, anger, bitterness. It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from or can't get over. I think of the times she'd rub me and say, "shh, it's going to be OK, it was only a dream." Or, if I was nervous or upset about something, she'd make it better. She'd calm me and make me feel utter safety and warmth. And now it's only in the abstract. I do feel she's around and always will be, but I miss her terribly and feel so empty and scared without her. I just want to hug her right now, hold her hand, go for a walk, hear her voice, hear her laugh- just feel her presence.

And, part of the end was good. After her fear, she was peaceful. She would shake with fear and tell me she was scared and, at first, she didn't know why; she'd ask me why. I'd just try and hold her, tell her it was OK. Tell her, "shh," and she'd "shh" back, but almost like she was a child learning and imitating her mother. Then, she started saying irrational things. "I'm scared of cheese" was one. I told her that the food Linda Shea had made was bland and that I'd put some spices in it. She was laying down and asked me to help her up. "Why," I asked. She said, "spice it up." She actually wanted- in all her sickness and fatigue- to go downstairs and make the food taste better for me. She cared about everyone but herself. She was hot, or cold, or said she couldn't breathe, or thought that dad was trying to kill her. She was refusing medication, yelling "I'm done, I'm done" and "leave me alone" to dad. Then, she didn't want to go back to the hospital and said "no more hospital" again and again.

Then, on morphine, she got happy. Not just the drugs did it, though: she came to terms with things, and I'll never forget one day, sitting at her side while Ron was on her other, and she kept repeating "life is strange, life is strange" over and over again. Then, later, she said "life is good. I'm just so happy, I'm lucky" and all these wonderful things that made me happy to hear. Hearing her say she loved me, or "me, too" over and over again. I want to hear that again, and not just in dreams, God. That was the most beautiful sound possible: her voice, both my dad's and her voice.

I thought writing would help tonight. It does and it doesn't. I keep crying on and off while I do it and keep waiting to reach some resolution so I can stop. Usually, I'll write until I see an ending, an answer, or an insight to make me understand all the thoughts shooting around my head. It's not happening. I just want to say that I want to make my mom proud. I don't want to let her or my father down. I've got to be strong. I could write until the sun comes up, but I don't want to be awake until then. Goodnight for now- here's hoping for sweeter dreams.