It’s a bonus episode of writing class radio**
The theme is love, for February and Valentine’s Day, but they’re talking about all kinds of love.
A woman is reading her work about how she’s in an emotional state at a pharmacy. She has just heard her friend is dying. She collects her purchases but when she gets to the counter, with tear filled eyes, she just hands her wallet to the cashier.
‘She handled it like we were sisters,’ she reads.
The cashier takes out her cash, puts the change back in, and says to her, “Whatever news you just received… I’m sorry.”
Her breath catches, she can’t speak for a moment. And I’m crying with her.
I’m back in a memory of my own from ten years ago. My mother is dying. She is in a hospital that’s a six hour drive away and I am mid divorce, and mid house sale. I have three small children and no one to leave them with. No one to hold the open house for me. No one to hold my hand.
Our father is useless. My sister is there so I know Mum isn’t alone. She says Mum doesn’t know who anyone is. She’s lost in her own past; a combination of the morphine and her Alzheimer’s. We don’t know how long it will take for her to die. It could be days or weeks. Weeks I don’t have. I don’t even have days.
If I make the trip, she won’t know that I am there.
It’s taken two years of fighting in the divorce courts to reach this stage. Two years in which the children and I have been waiting for a resolution. We can’t pause the process now. $$
I don’t go. And when my sister phones me with the news that our mother is dead, I absorb it and I don’t react. I have things to do. We need milk.
I get in my car and I drive to the store and I buy groceries. I pay for them and then walk away. The cashier calls me back. I have forgotten the groceries.
The man behind me in the queue laughs at me.
I look at him.
I am unable to say anything to him.
I want to cry, but I can’t.
I want to say, “My mother just died, but we needed milk,” but it all seems so absurd. I don’t know how to express the multitude of what I am feeling. How will he understand? I don’t think he can. He’s just laughed at a person who is clearly lost.
I feel guilty I wasn’t there at her bedside.
I feel guilty that I didn’t say goodbye.
I made a choice between my past and my present and at that moment, I’m not sure it was the right decision.
It’s June and my mother is dead.
$$ my elder brother just said ‘you’re supposed to do one of the three most stressful things, not all three at once.’
I’m writing this in September, the month of her birth.