at the mouth of the cave

dark me iphone

we make a pact with each other, in the dark of night… a phone to our ear and miles of night between us. we are cut of the same cloth, and this is the reminder to leave a lifeline at the mouth of the cave before we enter. this is how siblings grieve together and apart, never ready to let go of mom even as she slips further away.

my mother is dying. it surprises me sometimes how matter of fact this is: this statement.  the (sometimes) business side of my brain kicks in and allows me to not feel the enormity of this fact. until it arrives like a sledgehammer to my heart.

my mother is dying. she has been for three years. i fear that nobody is strong enough to endure this long process.

her body is forgetting how to work.  how to live.  how to move.  she stands to walk (walking, always walking like a caged animal, beachcombing in the recesses of her mind perhaps, long sandy miles between houses and boardwalks along the coast of maine…) she stands to walk and her brain forgets to tell her body how to move.  how to stand.  how to balance.  and so she falls. again and again.  last time a broken collarbone.  this time, staples in her head.  there is a refusal of the wheelchair.  not obstinately like a tantrum-ing two year old but silently in her sheer forgetfulness.  she, in her mind, is not a dying 70 year old white haired woman.  she is a young mother of one or two or three. a navy wife, a teacher, a healthy vibrant social butterfly trapped in the swiss cheese of her brain.

my mother is dying.

at the end of her long day, she often had my brother read my bedtime story.  now, as a mother myself, i know why she did this.  my favorite book was mousekin’s house… the golden pumpkin and the sleepy mouse hibernating all winter as the snow fell quietly outside his safe nest. we read that book a lot. i know now that it resonated with all of us. we are all one and the same, yet completely different.

we make a pact with each other. just after she returns to her home, we make a pact just after another seizure comes and we’re all on high alert. texts come in the dark of night. every phone call makes me wonder if this is it. if i should get in my car and drive through the night. she’s under observation, they take her vitals every four hours. we make a pact with each other just before hanging up … when we receive the simultaneous 10pm texts … she’s back at the emergency room. this is the quickening, i fear. the speeding up of the most long drawn out process of death.

i fluctuate between bitterness and cold. weepy and nonsensical. letting the golden pumpkin close in around me. we make a pact to keep each other accountable. to leave a trail of breadcrumbs… a life line at the mouth of the cave before we enter this death.