A person devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future. Camus
Sometimes even to live is an act of courage. Seneca
I have been away. My mother’s next-door neighbour phones. At Mom’s apartment the paper has not been picked up for two days. No one answers the neighbour’s knock and Mom’s home phone goes repeatedly to voice mail. Do you think you could come? The neighbour is worried.
My relationship with my Mom (Who had lived with my family for 12 years before recently wanting more independence, a place of her own.) is an anchor, forged in the trinity of love, respect and friendship, but lurking beneath that solid surface is a living, expanding, cancerous fear. I am all too aware of the dangerous precipices that rim her abyss; the secret acts she holds away from the light. These are the faces of depression and addiction, the ones that own her, the companions she abandons us all for, and visits with increasing frequency.
We have weathered crises before and there have been other calls with many interventions, other false alarms, and other times when I have successfully thrown her a rope to climb out of the void. But somehow today I have a premonition. In many ways, this is the call I have been waiting for most of my life.
Recently, I dream that my mother, small and alone, is an astronaut walking in space. Her frayed tether to the space station strains then severs. Against the blackness she is alone spinning, spinning away in silence. Other times I dream of walking her quiet hallway, turning the lock of her door and calling her name. In a spectral silence I receive nothing back save the echo of my voice. She and I discuss these dreams and she reassures me these are only dreams, not a part I will ever play in her drama. For me, I tell her, the hardest part of the dreams is that we never get to say goodbye.
In a state of altered reality I respond to the neighbour’s call. I get into the car already aware that I move toward a different future, toward another destiny, different from the one I had planned, the one where my mother sees her grandchildren leave childhood, graduate from school, university, marry, and have children of their own. They love her, depend on her, expect her to be there to share these moments.
I am in a trance, the motions automatic in the hypnotic drive across town, but the mind is a swirling tornado erasing all sense and action save the solid stone of anger and betrayal that choke the throat and the fear, the omniscient fear that thickens every moment and compresses time in to a colossal weight, impossible for a daughter to bear. Suddenly, when it is all too much, effervescent optimism rises to the surface of the mental quagmire. Perhaps I am wrong? Perhaps this is simply a false alarm and I am buoyed on the wings of hope once more. I take a deep breath and drive on.
I arrive at the apartment I know so well and walk the quiet hallway.Routines and habits comfort me, so I do what I always do, I pick up the papers and the mail for my mother before I engage the lock, open the door. I call my mother’s name into the silence and receive nothing more than the echo of my voice. I now know that one step over the doorsill is the difference between premonition and reality and I feel my heart break, break into a thousand shards, shards that will bleed this day and forever. For me, the hardest part of this new reality is that my mother and I never get to say goodbye.
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