I am 42. My mother died when she was 42. She died right after surgery to remove her brain tumor. The last time I saw her, alive, she was on a gurney. Not yet sedated. Still with me. Still here. Her long, curly brown hair looked like it was being mulled into a surgical skull cap. I was 17. I watched her being pushed, under a blanket, on the gurney, through blue hospital doors, that closed. Quietly. The doors swooshed. That was the last time I saw my mother breathing. The next morning. I saw my mother again. I was still 17. Not my mother. My mother’s body was in a hospital room. Lying on her back, on a hospital bed. Her bed against a brown wall, rolled to the side of the room. There was only one bed in the room. I learned that there are always only one bed in those rooms. The dead people rooms.
I am reliving my life as my memories return. Having grown up homeless, in a commune, in the forest, in my father’s dark-room, my memories-my life-are weird. I keep track of my memories by writing them down. My memories are an ongoing collection of pretty stories. Some are even true. I think.
Born and raised in Northern California, I moved to the Sierra Nevada high desert just before I turned thirty. Now I’m in Dallas with a friend who helps me deal with life.
Dead people who should be breathing and moving, and dead machines that should be beeping and moving. I felt so shaken, like when I had stood behind the shuddering glass at the one-hour-photo, where I’d worked, last year. That year, I was 16. That was the ‘89 earthquake. Everything shook, rolled, dropped, shattered. Seventeen seconds of rolling destruction. Everything seemed to be wanting to be pulled under the surface of the earth. An invisible force. It was such a quiet, deafening shaking. Like now. Like inside of me now. Looking at my dead mother. Like now. Me. Standing there in a ray of sunlight, on the weirdly soft hospital floor. Always, hospital floors are absorbently quiet. Never walked upon, just padded upon. Except for wheels. Wheels rolled.
The wheels of wheelchairs and gurneys are loud. In hospitals, things, people, are always being pushed. Rolled. I felt more shaken by how little I felt as I looked at her, sleeping without breathing. I wondered if her wheeled bed had squeaked as it rolled her to this room. She still had that skullcap on her head. It was the only time I ever saw my mother’s hair look so lifeless. Or my mother
Today, I am alive, technically. My mother and I had brains that weren’t built to work for more than forty-two years.
Less than 2 years after I watched my mother wave to me from the rolling bed, waving to me as those big, blue doors drifted shut after she’d been pushed through them—two years later I met J.