That’s roughly how many days it’s been since I was sitting in the emergency room at the hospital with my mom, listening to them talk about how they were going to admit her. Her cancer had spread to the point where her treatment wasn’t working anymore. When her oncologist decided to take her off of chemotherapy to treat the lymphedema in her arm, she developed an infection in her port that spread into her heart.
The doctors spoke in hushed tones after they admitted her; they kept telling us that there was a chance she would get better, that the infection wasn’t that serious and that she’d be able to come back home sooner than we knew it. But she knew, and we knew too, that just wasn’t the case. Her eyes told another story. She was tired, and defeated. After losing my dad to lung cancer almost exactly two years before, she didn’t have the fight left in her.
I sat in the room with her and held her hand while she talked to me. She wasn’t angry, she was just sad. Sad that she would miss out on seeing my brother and I grow up. Sad that she wasn’t going to be around to see her grandkids. “Grandkids?,” I thought to myself as the tears welled up in my eyes. “I’m nowhere near having kids. What is she talking about? I don’t want to think about kids. I want my mom. I’m not ready for her to leave me…”
She passed away the next evening. I left the hospital the night before she died, exhausted and in desperate need of some sleep. She was upset I was leaving; she wanted me to stay. I remember she yelled at me and told me I was selfish. I told her I would see her the next morning and we could talk some more then. By the time I got back to the hospital the next day, she was no longer responsive. We couldn’t talk anymore. Within 12 hours, she was gone.
4,356 days before my mom left this earth, I was 10 years old. It was 1994. Fourth grade was ending. President Bill Clinton delivered his first State of the Union speech. OJ Simpson’s DNA had just linked him to the murder scene of his ex-wife and her friend. Kurt Cobain was found dead. We lived on the top floor of a two-flat in Niles. We ran around the neighborhood all day during the summer from the time the sun came up until the time it went down. We drank from the sprinkler. We got our news from the newspaper and had to page my dad if we needed him to call home.
That’s how long it’s been since the last time I heard my mother’s voice or felt the softness of her touch. My kids are fighting again and it’s overwhelming. When are they ever going to stop being assholes? When will my older son stop talking to me non-stop? He never stops talking. He’s always trying to tell me something or ask me a question or get my attention. When will his brother stop screaming? Isn’t he going to learn how to talk soon? It’ll be so much easier once he learns how to use his words instead of his screeches. My oldest, R., starts kindergarten at the end of August. He’s turning into a young man; less baby-faced and looking more and more like his dad every day. Almost daily, he climbs into my lap and gives me a hug. “Don’t worry, Mommy,” he tells me. “I will always hug you, even when I’m an adult and I’m bigger than you. And when I get home from school, you won’t be lonely anymore because we can talk then.”
That’s how many days I have left until my oldest turns 18 and gets to venture out into the world as a legal adult. What will life be like then? Are he and his brother still going to be fighting every day? (Spoiler alert: most likely.) While there are some days right now with everything going on in the world that I’m thankful that the moments are fleeting, this is one of the reasons I wish time would just slow down. Keep them little just a bit longer…
…I’m not ready for them to leave me.
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