Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14, 2011: After the Hyphen

An hour's sleep & then my thumb pulls the peel off a ball of light.

Panic attack without panic. Hours & days before the end, I read in the brochure that hospice left, the dying person experiences surges of energy. I saw none in her, but now in me a rivered string of lights is coming down the street, house by house, as it did after a power outage in what, 1968?

An hour before she died, her breath kept catching, as if her body forgot intake out take intake & out. Then habit returned effort to her open mouth.

Dying is a verb.

T wanders in and out of this. She was my mother's neighbor on Country Lane, hair dyed black, jacket checked black & white, slacks black, arthritic fingers painted off-red. What's going on, she asked at Martha's door, yesterday, which is now the day before. My mother's sleeping, I said. She'll be ok. No, she's not, T replied, reaching a hand out to mom's forehead, shaking it back and forth. Tried to pour water into mom's mouth before I said no, they did that with the sponge.

After mom died at 6 pm, E teased R he'd need a new girlfriend. He was the one who, when he told my mother to get up for dinner, she did. E got her elbow in the ribs. Not R, the tall man. She always did like men, I said. T, standing next to E, called out, Yes she did!

Ellen took me home with her and Steve. They & Max asked about my father. I offered history: Michigan farm, auto plant, air force (when it integrated, he knew Tuskegee airmen), IBM, Western Union. Ellen said, Jerry Lawler. Jerry Lawler! My father's Irish friend, office roommate of Col. Dudley Stevenson, Tuskegee airman. Steve called Jerry; we explained the coincidence. He darted off to find a letter. Please, do you mind? I'm looking. Dear Jerry, the letter read. My father's voice, Irished. Jerry, you never put yourself above others, gave credit to them & did not take it. The experience of an Irish immigrant. Martha & Susan join me in wishing you a long & enjoyable retirement.

Ellen's family in the concentration camps. Mom there when Dachau was liberated. Her memory was stronger than the first impression. Men in striped pajamas making shelters out of anything they could find.

C & R wash mom's body. Suddenly, from C's phone, the voice of a child singing in Tagalog. My niece, she's three years old. The only Tagalog she knows is what she sings.

The day I left Hawai'i I took my usual bike ride. Was side-swiped by a silver pick
up truck that didn't stop. As I tried the bike, a man called out from down the road, asking if I needed a ride. Should have gotten the plate number, he said. He was a windmill worker from Pahala, living in Hau'ula, who picked up my bike, put it in his truck, drove me home. I tended to the bleeding elbows, later found a deep bruise on my right hip. Only when I arrived in Virginia did I feel the heart bruise, blue circle embedded near the center of my left breast.

R dressed mom in navy blue pants, & a blue & white striped shirt. When I came back to walk her to the black SUV with flashing lights (give my body to science, she always said, and we did), a man in sun glasses attached a tag to her big marbled toe. Check the spelling, he said. E had already witnessed the act.

Om mane padme hung.


Jean Vengua said...

Condolences. This reminding me of my own mother's death. Ritual is sometimes a relief...doing what's been done by so many. Frees you to a strange sense of awareness.

Anonymous said...

My condolences, Susan