I had my regular six month check in with the rheumatologist on Thursday morning. No big deal. I was already thinking about you as I drove in to the appointment remembering how you would always say, "Now call me when you get home and tell me what he says." I would rebut that he would only draw blood and all would be much the same. You always responded, "Well call me anyway." I miss that.
As expected, all was the same. I've actually, other than the typical struggle with fatigue, been doing well. Not a lot of pain this winter season, not even my usual arthritis in my right hand. I don't know what to liken that to considering I haven't exactly been eating healthy or taking good care of myself (surprise, surprise). But as the doctor said, "We'll take it!" So he ordered the typical blood work, and I headed upstairs to the lab he uses. I signed in and took a seat. There were several people in the room already waiting, and I sat across from an elderly lady and a man. She was such a pretty lady, and I was certain she was quite beautiful in her prime. She was dressed in a pant suit with a scarf around her neck and topped off with a fur coat. It wasn't overwhelmingly fancy, but she was very put together. Her hair looked freshly set, and she had a little light shade of lipstick on. I assumed it was her son sitting beside her taking on the duty of caretaker and gopher for the day. He sat with his Ipad open reading something.
I watched them, both envious and pleased at the same time. I saw her reach her hand over, placing the back of her thin hand against his. He turned to her at the touch, and she said, "I'm so cold!" with a little chuckle. He smiled, and responded, "You don't feel cold." "Oh, I don't?" she replied, almost wishing he had agreed with her. And he should have. He should have said, "Goodness, yes you do feel cold." How could her tiny fragile hands not feel cold? Oh, he has not idea how much he will miss this when it's gone. Just no idea. He will miss the hands and the doctor's appointments and the way she draped a second coat over herself to keep warm.
She tried to engage him two more times. She asked, "So what is ISIS up to now?" He breathed a heavy sigh, closed his Ipad (finally) and replied, "Oh much of the same..." He sat it to the side, and she turned her head away looking as though she was trying to find something else to say. So she asked, "I wonder if he got my ribs in that x-ray?" The son replied, "I don't know. You can ask when you go back." To that she replied, "Well I'm not going back to him if I don't have to." Her son, obviously having heard this before, said, "I know, I know."
Not long after that, her name was called, and she was taken back for her lab work. He picked up his Ipad and began reading again. I fought the urge to go over and sit beside him and tell him the truth about his day. That he is lucky to have her. That I don't know his story, what kind of mother she was, if she gave him enough of her during the time he was under her roof. I don't know what resentments and bitterness might lie between them. I don't know how hard things have been for him to take over the responsibilities of getting her here or there, of caring for an elderly mother. But what I do know is what it's like to not have a mother anymore. I know what it feels like to have had a mom that cared about a routine doctor appointment, and I know what it feels like now that she's gone. I know that he will miss her when she's gone no matter what their relationship may be, that when the one who gave you life is gone, the whole world looks different.
And so for the rest of the day, I thought over all the many waiting rooms we sat in together over the years. How many simple conversations there were. How, as I sat in an uncomfortable vinyl chair alongside of you, I never dreamed the day would come so soon that you would leave me. I didn't realize I wouldn't watch you grow old, see your hands in that thin, fragile state. I feel a little cheated. Well, a lot cheated, if I'm honest.
Yesterday marked three years since your brain tumor day. I don't know how else to refer to it since we aren't really sure how it all went down. Did you have a seizure and fall, or did you lose your balance and knock yourself out on the way down? We will never know, and that really doesn't matter. It was a selfish day for me, a day of pleading with my God. I hit my knees when I found out you were on the way to the hospital, wailing like I never had before. I wasn't ready. I told God I wasn't ready to lose you, to please not let you go yet. For several days, I wasn't sure if what was left of you was really my mother or would ever be again. It was all about me, though. About how I would feel if you were gone or, if you stayed, what shape you would be in. But that was the last time I thought that way. From there on out, after watching you battle through it all, I looked at things differently. I realized that your battle had nothing to do with me. That when it was over, God would give me what I needed to make it through. That when you took your last breath, it meant peace and freedom for you. That letting go and admitting I had no control was freeing. It made it somewhat easier to pray for Jesus to come greet you and take you to Heaven.
So it's almost been three years. Seems crazy. So much has changed in that time, and yet so much remains the same. But the grief never really wavers. It's there all the time. When I'm in the waiting room at LabCorps or in line at the grocery store or in my kitchen cooking, there are always little things that pop up and bring the grief to the surface. The kids still talk about you at random times here and there. Madalyn does more so than David. We still use your green comb nearly every night after Madalyn washes her hair. There are little pieces of you scattered like confetti across my life. And I am so thankful for that.
I do wish I could call you one last time and tell you all about my boring rheumatologist appointment, though...