It’s not easy to sit in discomfort.
It’s not easy to feel the compression of pain as the body deteriorates and sit inside walls of silence. To sit alone with so many thoughts, fears, music-less days.
She has the curtains always down so that the sun doesn’t invade her space camped out in the middle of the family room.
There is a long wooden couch with worn, faded floral patterns and a dark wood coffee table. Stout sitting chair with slightly less fade on patterns, but same pattern as the couch. These objects were bought as a matching set, when she first moved into this house with her husband and three children six, maybe seven years ago.
The family room is an open space, so she can see directly into the kitchen. Clock on the wall reads 3:00 pHard to keep track of details… the darkness is thick, and dead. If the room were full of smoke – that’s what the room feels like.
TV is on, but there’s no volume and those figures on the screen are all laughing. They are making faces by exaggerating their eyes and pulling their lips back, showing teeth. Laughter. The woman cant hear it though. TV is muted – black and white screen. Oh, now she remembers - Lucy and Ethel. I love Lucy. She believes it is a channel dedicated only to this woman Lucy and her friend. They have been on the screen for days, pulling back their lips in laughter.
Here. Tingling. Her foot has grown numb, falling asleep. It must be the medication. Morphine. Chemo. Injections. They all seem to blend together. The only constant is silence. Dull. Thud. Silence. Did you know silence sounds like a “thud.” She wanted to ask someone. Maybe she’d ask Debbie tomorrow. But Debbie may not understand. There is a language barrier. They gesture to each other with their hands. And of course with the face. Debbie’s face is long and narrow, but didn’t much match her body since she was rather short and stout. The kindness was found inside her eyes though. The woman could see the beam inside lighting gentle compassion. Debbie also moved the woman very deliberately and slowly when administering medicine.
Then it occurred to the woman. Will Debbie be back today or tomorrow? Did Debbie already visit? Not sure. She had been sure, but now the image of Debbie didn’t even seem real.
The woman shook her foot weakly. The numbness was travelling throughout the foot now and going in all directions. Tingling. Numbness. She was getting frustrated with the stupid foot when she heard the front door. Key in the knob. Turn. Loud dull thud as it closed.
The woman blinked, it was as if she was daydreaming and she finally awoke.
A figure emerged from around the corner of the hallway. The figure walked into the kitchen. Darkness hid the figure’s identity and the woman could only make out a blob.
“HHH”. The woman believes she answered, but it sounds outside of reality. It was the sound of an animal, maybe hit by a car in the early dawn hours on a road somewhere.
“Ma. It smells like garlic in here. All the time! Uggg”
The woman may have been chopping garlic and eating it whole. She remembers doing it, reading it somewhere that garlic is holistic and heals. Daughter has complained about garlic before and doesn’t likeit.
Suddenly, the woman remembers her tingling foot. The sensation stopped. Better now.
“its okay Ma. Maybe you just shouldn’t eat it whole like that. Maybe it s not good for you.”
Daughter walks from the kitchen to the family room, where the woman finds she has laid back down onto her long wooden couch and faded cushions. Daughter’s hair is pulled back and she seems tall as she stands there, hovering at the entrance of the family room. Stranded in the darkness. The woman’s eyes fix on her daughter, taking care not to lose sight. Stay here, the woman commands herself rather harshly inside her mind. She didn’t want to lose a precious second as the daughter stood there. Nor did the woman want to forget the daughter stopped by – like she forgot about whether Debbie had already come or not.
Focus, focus, focus.
Daughter comes closer, sits down on the floor next to the couch the woman is laying on. “Ma, are you okay?”
The woman wants to cry. She knows that this is not typical for her daughter to reach out and ask this question. In all this time, the daughter has been very busy with college and a full-time job. Very important things to build her own future, her own life. She has not wanted to embrace the reality of this illness, death, darkness, the pungent smell ofgarlic. The woman feels warmed that her daughter was reaching out to ask this caring question.
“Okay” the woman says and puts her own hands on top of the daughter’s. “okay”
Suddenly the woman feels wet drops on her own hands. Rain drops. She remembered rain drops when she used to garden outside. She used to have the most beautiful rose bushes in the cul de sac. Now she is unsure what the garden looks like, what the front yard has become. She doesn’t go outside. The woman has not been outside for almost 10 months, a year? Maybe on the front porch a few times?
These raindrops came from the daughter’s face, the woman realized.
“Ma, I don’t want you to die!” The daughter was crying very softly. Soft words, so low, soft as cashmere on bare skin in winter time.
The woman was taken aback and didn’t know what to say. These emotions were not typical from her daughter. She didn’t want to reassure her daughter when she was not even sure if she would be able to recall this moment, this conversation later.
“This is not living, my dear. This is not being alive, my sweetheart,” the woman said. Then she felt her heart break apart, a softening of this organ and she just cried and cried. “You can not ask me to live like this! This is not a life. Look at me! Look at me!”
The woman clumsily pounded her chest, a rack of bones. Maybe 85 pounds, the collar bones jutting out from underneath her flannel pajamas. She adjusted her knitted cap on her head. She didn’t want it to fall off and scare her daughter with the shininess of her bald head.
In the room, the darkness hugged the woman and her daughter. It was then that both realized the weight of life, circumstances beyond human interference, and to love is to let go.