Friday, April 15, 2011
Mother's Room (a short story)
Mother’s Room (Originally, “Already Dead” Part I of IV)
She is over there, over on one of those three shelves, the middle one, no, I mean, down, down on the lower one in the China Cabinet; her insides, just ashes, that’s all that is left of her—a wooden urn, around her bagged ashes, and her, she’s just ashes inside it all, that’s it in a nutshell: “Over there” —I say, talking to myself, the person inside of me, and point, to where over there is “She’s just ashes, in that China cabinet, she’s a ghost, I suppose,” I murmur, whisper. Not sure why, perhaps so my brother don’t think I’m nuts, or going nuts. I sense her presence in this room here, mother used this room as her living and dinning room combined, here on Albemarle Street (in the North End of St. Paul, Minnesota): her room, where now I have the china cabinet, and it’s my room. I can’t be sure she is present not one hundred percent sure, but I can tell exactly where her draw seems to be. Mike, my brother, “...she talked to me yesterday...” I tell him; I can’t remember exactly what she said, or told me, I tell Mike this, but that is a lie, I do remember, I just say that: she told me to travel to places my heart desires, now, right now, before it is too late. I think she was saying: a live dog is better than a dead lion, therefore, if I can do it now, do it. She inferred: ‘Life, is living.’ Perhaps, equally put, “The great adventure is living life.” I thank God, have thanked God; several times have thanked God, that she had a peaceful death. My wife says “She had the most peaceful death I’ve ever seen.” I am so awfully grateful to God, to Jesus for this. “Why doesn’t she go...go straight to heaven...?” my brother asked me. Heaven—! “Heaven,” I say, I’m looking at the urn, wooden urn, with a butterfly on it, carved in wood, and a statue of Christ on it, carved in wood, I got the statue of Jesus when my wife Rosa and I visited Rio de Janeiro a few years ago, it fits perfectly on the edge of the urn. “Why does she want to stay down here?” Mike asks. Her physical life is over I know, and to me, Mike is asking thick questions, I say nothing to him for the moment, nor to myself (it is just a rhetorical question to me). I say, out loud, kind of an impulsive reaction to Mike’s question I didn’t want to remark to, it must be the other person inside of me, “For me, she stayed down here for me….” ((I want to say chew on that, but I don’t)(Mike can be like that, commanding like my mother was, he’s never forgotten he’s the older brother by two years…God forbid, why couldn’t it have been the other way around?))
—I’ve looked for mom in the shadows of the house, when Rosa is asleep: I think I found her residue, her ghost like configuration a few times, her essence, wandering about in the house a few times, I really don’t know for certain; I know God has her, I know that for certain: she loved Jesus; Jesus, she believed in Jesus, but I need her around for awhile longer I’ve told her, and Him— I hope she hears me, or Jesus tells her, so if she hears me all the better, and if she doesn’t Jesus does, He can get the message to her. I know she hears me though, once in awhile, and she’s in the house once in awhile. She wants to go, but if she does, she returns.
Mike stands up, pauses by the urn, sullen, adrift. My voice is thin, it has been since she died, died, died, I hate that word, but it is appointed to each person, like it or not. And so my voice is thin, thoughts appear to me; “I’m Fine” she had told me four days before she died. “Who wants to live like this anyhow, would you?” She told me five days before she died. I heard her say in this room, this very room “I’m fine,” meaning she’s still fine, in her afterlife. “Did you see any angels yet?” I asked my mother before she went into the three day coma and then died in the hospital. “Yes,” she states firmly, without reservation, but looks at me, as if wanting to say something else, but doesn’t. “She had a peaceful death…” Rosa says to me, and I saw it happen, kind of, for thirty-days I saw her dying, visiting her in the hospital shriveling away to nothingness, and then, then death, it was peaceful, I agree it was quiet. She told me: “I’m fine... I’m okay with dying, I’m okay with it.” She was too, but I wasn’t okay with it. I suppose I am now, I told Jesus I was... that it was alright to take her, after thirty-days of seeing her at the hospital, and—well, well she wasn’t getting much better you know. Rosa says she had a peaceful death, and so she did and so I’m alright with it now.
The muscles in my face are sore though: sore from crying, grieving, it’s funny how a face can stretch, get contorted when it grieves, I’m aging twice as fast, no, three times as fast—while in this grieving process. Rosa knows my face is sore, I doubt Mike does. He’s pacing the floor now, looks back at the urn—it’s forenoon, a few days after the wake. We were filling out paper work, lots of paperwork when someone dies in America: insurance, funeral, and the like. I can’t really, not in reality, do things worthwhile, not a damn thing— wish I could, but I can’t, maybe don’t want to, what for...Rosa wants me to see a doctor, Doctor Sullwold, at the Veterans Hospital, depression I think; but I never get depressed, that is, I never did before, I suppose I am...I suppose I’ve lost my ability to function normally, whatever normal is. Today for me normal is to feel sad, maybe that can be translated into depression. Am I supposed to be happy? I heard and read and been quoted to by the clergy: Christians should celebrate when a loved one dies, but hell with that, I don’t, do not want to celebrate, and won’t, can’t, couldn’t if I wanted to, it’s not in me at the moment. The preacher at the Hospital asked me if I wanted to join him at his chapel for a prayer. I told him, “It’s too late, she needed prayer before. She don’t need it now, she’s where she is, one way or the other.” Although I know what he means, Rosa my wife thinks prayers after the fact will help, also. I’m not convinced. That’s a Baptist and a Catholic for you.” I am exhausted now, Mike passes me again, walks to the kitchen, to the bathroom, a bird at the window is watching us, maybe not us, maybe just me....
Notes: There are four parts to this story, “The Room,” changed to “Mother’s Room” is part one, written right after my mother’s death in July, of 2003, originally published with the other three parts, October, 2005, perhaps when all four parts were written out. This part here expresses the moments dealing with the grieving process days after her death: parts II “Mother Calls,” deals with an incident a few months later, a fire that someone started in our garage; part III, deals with “The Urn” her ashes: in and part IV “After Death” is about letting go of the person we are grieving so we can go on with our lives. Besides part one, all other parts written sometime in-between July of 2003 and October 2005. This is the first time the account has been edited with some slight sentence restructuring for clarity sake, along with correcting simple errors of spelling, etc (4/2011). Note two: I grieved for three years with my mother’s death, it is said, and it is very true, all a month for grieving for every year you have been with that person you are grieving. Throughout our lives together, my mother lived with me, or I with her, perhaps some 33-years.