Sitting in a room around a long table. Words are flowing over me but them mean nothing. Hexavalent. Trivalent. Salt-spray testing. Top-coat. Type 3. My head feels fuzzy, distant – I’m not even here although I have a look on my face that I hope indicates interest.
I am afraid. I’m afraid that I’m forgetting – forgetting Mama, forgetting her laugh, forgetting her smile, forgetting what her hands felt like, what her presence felt like. The way she filled up a room. FELT. I can think without issue, but I can’t make myself FEEL. I try to imagine the thoughts of those who pass “Ground Zero” where the Twin Towers used to stand. I know that is such an overstatement for everyone but me – how could breast cancer taking my Mama be compared to the untimely death of so many by a terrorist attack? But to me, it’s just as big. It’s just as important. It’s more important.
I’m going into a new place where the loss isn’t a gaping hole, a pile of rubble that’s still settling with the smoke haze hovering. Instead its the post-Ground Zero – when you know in your mind what those towers looked like, and what it felt like before those people died, but you can’t feel it in your heart. When it’s hard to remember what it was like exactly when those towers were still standing. You KNOW they did, but the emotion has separated… You don’t FEEL it like you did right after it happened. Brave sprigs of new grass are starting to peek through the piles of debris; somehow, when you weren’t noticing, the mountains of rubble settled into this new arrangement, almost like it was meant to be. Like its always been there. Like it was INTENDED to be there. You know that a great tragedy took place, you know that this was the scene of horror and nightmares. But the knowledge is detached from the feeling because you’ve learned, finally learned, how to shut it off. You’ve finally learned to function, and FEELING becomes a hurdle to overcome, an obstacle to your daily achievements.
It’s been almost 7 months. And everyone thinks that its over. Everyone thinks I’m “over it.” And I do nothing to dispell that image – I was resentful at first because I felt like society was pressuring me to “get better”…. but now I’ve succumbed. I’ve accepted that I have a pile of devastated rubble that used to be a giant gleaming tower in my mind, but I’m the only one that knows it’s there. I’m the only that remembers what that tower used to look like… And now I’m forgetting too. Because it’s less painful to not remember.
The human mind is a funny thing – I wished for forgetfulness when the nightmares plagued my nights. I wished that I could be put to sleep and reprogramed to only remember select parts, while wiping other parts out like they never were. And now, I am forgetting. I’m forgetting. I feel panicky when I think about forgetting. How do I remember? How do I remember what Mama felt like? How her laugh sounded? How her smile lit up an entire room and whole world? She was such an overwhelming, powerful, driving force in my life. In all of our lives. My opinions, my perspectives, my decorating taste and cleaning techniques – no matter how huge or insignificant, Mama was a vital part of every single little detail. And now I’m still going and she’s stopped – in this world, at least. And I was floundering at first, but now my feet are back on the ground. Not always, but most of the time.
What do I do? Do I watch videos? Do I look at picture albums? Do I open the pretty, fabric-covered box in my bedroom – the one that’s been empty since my wedding day, and is now filled to the brim – and take each Mama item out? Do I smell her nightgown – the one I kept at my apt when she was too sick to stay alone and Daddy had to work, and smell it, breathing in any sign of her that will trigger a memory? Last night, Bobby and I sat at the little Mexican restaurant up the road from us, and he talked about his memories. When he took Mama to what would be her last radiation appt, and she vomited in the waiting room bathroom. Bobby remembers standing next to the bathroom door, and listening, and waiting for her to be done so he could help her walk back to her seat. He remembers looking around the waiting room, and down at himself, and thinking “What am I doing here? How did I get here? How did this happen?” When they returned to the little house in Townville, helping Mama walk into the house, and holding her hand – Bobby loved her hands, and they were always warm – there was nothing cold or even cool about my mother. But that day, her hands were cold. Small and cold as he held her hand, and helped her into the house. He remembers Daddy pulling he and Tom into Sue’s bedroom during the evening of Sept 17th, and saying “I’ve made a decision! We’re just going to call an ambulance, we’re going to call MedShore, and we’re going to have them take her to Duke. That’s what we’re going to do. Ok.” And Bobby looked at Daddy, and said “Mr Marty, your wife is going to die today. She’s not going to Duke. She’s dying.”
So what happens now? I’m just so tired, so physically sleepy, that I can barely keep my eyes open. My laptop goes on standby… maybe that’s what my brain is doing too? Even now, I’m sitting at my desk in a fog, wondering exactly how I’m going to make it through the rest of today and two more days before the weekend.