Awhile ago a friend asked me what I'd be doing if I weren't spending all my time taking care of Mom. "Writing." I answered with out a moment of hesitation.
The problem I'm having at this moment is that all my thoughts are about the last two years, specifically the last two months. Not even thoughts really. A day starts and is fine and then for no obvious reason I am felled by memory. I cried through my shower. I stood in front of the shower crying telling myself - this is normal, this is normal
I'm not embarrassed by this but I don't always want to be public with this process.
I've been reading a lot of fiction. The last three books brought characters from one book to the other, which I loved. I have no desire to write fiction. Can't even imagine it. But talking story has been big in my life.
I told the mommy's story over and over. Care givers, social workers, nurses, facilities. I prompted her to tell as much as she could but she'd get stuck and worried. I tried to make the narrative repetitive and told it with questions and answers. She did fairly well with that.
That story was rote and superficial. Just the facts. If you spent enough time with her she would tell you the story of when she and her friend skipped school to go to a Pirate's (baseball) game. Or about how her hair in the Navy was too long to be regulation because she was the only woman in her unit and the C.O. didn't know what length it was supposed to be. For a woman who took such care to follow the rules she took pride in her rebel moments.
In the last month the story I was telling was increasingly urgent. This hurts her. That made her puke. This needs to be stronger. At least three people (medical professionals) said she was dying before it seemed like she was and they said right in front of her. My fury was always boiling under my skin while I told the story of the day. This hurts her. That made her puke. This needs to be stronger. I wanted to speak all the details to make sure there was no confusion. I needed to keep her out of pain. I needed to keep her ... well. She wasn't well. She wasn't going to get well. But I needed to control that fall. During that time I realized how much of my story telling has always been a desperate way to elicit change. Change in attitudes, understandings, perspectives about the lives of fat people. About my life.
Talking story always felt like a psychological process. I talk my story to explain why I am who I am and in the process I also figure out why I am who I am. I remember times when I was telling the story in the way I had always told it and in the telling I realized that I didn't feel the same way any more. The story wasn't ringing true in the telling. This was especially true when I was writing the book.
In the days after the mommy passed I had no stories. Mostly I had the memory of her last breath, wrapping my arms around her and saying: oh Mommy. Oh Mommy is the sum total of our lives together. It was loaded with emotion but I can't name the emotion. I've said over and over since then.
I was surprised by the absence of bad memories. All of the issues, resentments, complaints. In the weeks since I've had some of those memories return but they don't sit as hard in my heart. I come back to Oh Mommy. Our story has ended.
I mean. I know. She'll always be with me. But the story line. The conversations. Those are ended. And I need to focus on the story as it is now.