This is the first memoir I wrote as an assignment for my creative writing class. I thought this would be a good place to start. Plus it explains a little about who I am.
Everyone has a story. And every story has a beginning. Some are tragic; others are humorous or possibly thrilling in some ways. Many are full of drama and suspense, heartaches and joy.
My life unfortunately is full of all of these things. It is full of pain and suffering, happiness and pleasure, theatrics and lies, misery and doubts. It is a long tale, but I think one worth telling. This is where my story begins.
Growing up I was a very happy child even though I came from what people called “a broken home”. I had a good relationship with both of my parents, as they were both very vivacious people. My mother especially, she was always very fun loving and had a very light-hearted personality. She would walk the house singing and dancing and laughing almost daily. She was my best friend; I could tell her anything and she would understand. She was my world, but my world would soon change.
It was summer, 1988, I was ten, my older sister Natalie would turn 13 in three months and my younger brother Joe was three. Natalie and I had the same dad but our parents were divorced some years before.
Natalie and I rarely got along and she seemed to love my brother much more than she did me. This was the only thing that ever made me feel sad and lonely but I never let it bother me too much. I just chalked it up to sibling rivalry. I think that because my sister was never very nice to me it made me be much closer to my mother.
My brother’s dad lived with us so when Natalie and I went to visit our dad Joe always stayed home. He, although he doesn’t remember, was there at the beginning of everything. I’m glad, even now, that he does not remember.
This summer was no different than any other summer at dads’, we played with our “summer friends”, we maybe would catch a theater play with dad or hang out at camp all day. My father was never a talkative man nor was he the kind of person that wore his heart on his sleeve but we always knew he was excited and happy to have us there.
About mid summer, by which I mean it was June, my mother called to check on us, as she always did. She called to tell us she loved us and couldn’t wait for us to come home, like always, but this call, unknowingly to me, would be the one that would change the course of all our lives forever.
Natalie spoke with mom first. I hadn’t really been paying any attention to the conversation they were having. I just waited for my turn so I could get back outside. After about ten minutes it was my turn. I picked up the phone to answer all the same questions as usual; how was summer going; what were we doing, and those sorts of things. She then said to me, “if something were to happen to me, where would you want to live”.
The question naturally gave me pause because I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant by that, and she didn’t feel it necessary to tell me right then either. We spoke for a few moments after and she asked to talk to dad. When he picked up he went into his room to talk and shut the door behind him, which he never did. I was ten years old, so naturally I thought about all of this for about five minutes before carrying on with my life.
It was late August and we were back home. My stepfather wasn’t there anymore. We didn’t know when he had left or why, only that he wouldn’t be back. For the next five and a half months it would just be the four of us.
About a week before school began our mother sat down with her two daughters and told us that she had breast cancer and would be undergoing an array of treatments to help her get better. She was to begin treatment right away and supposedly it would fight off the cancer and she would be better, at least that’s what she told us.
Natalie and I both understood the roles we would need to play in the coming months. Joe would need to be tended to and kept out of trouble while mom was doing therapy, the house would need to be kept, along with a myriad of other things.
As the months began to pass and fall turned to winter, it seemed as though the treatments my mother was getting weren’t making her better at all. Her health appeared to be declining very rapidly in fact. I had never seen my mother as she was then; weak, exhausted, sad. My mother had always been what most would call “the life of the party”, always jovial and lively. Full of energy and could light a concert hall with only her smile. But not any longer, everything had changed.
When I looked up into her eyes they were the color of banana just as it over ripens, and I didn’t know if it was from the cancer or from the treatments. I was hard pressed to find any signs of hopefulness. And when she cried, I cried, though I never let her see me because she never thought that I saw her.
I hadn’t seen my mother smile in weeks, not because she wouldn’t, but because I think she couldn’t. Watching her that way made me begin to really understand that what was happening was only going to get worst, not better.
December 31, 1988. Our grandmother had been calling more than frequent over the passed few months; she wanted her daughter to come home to Cleveland and be with her family. She didn’t have to ask that day. My mother, I think, knew she didn’t have anymore time to wait.
My aunt and grandmother drove from Cleveland to Indianapolis that same day. They had to hurry. There and back. I listened to the discussion in the car; they had wanted to take my mother directly to the hospital, she said no. She wanted to go home first.
When we arrived at my aunt’s house, everyone was already there. Everyone. Including the doctor, whom grandmother had called prior to us getting into town. There was an ambulance parked in front of the house. Walking in I recall not smelling any food, thinking that I was hungry. All I could smell was all of the expensive perfume my aunts and older cousins had obviously bathed in before they came, along with my uncle’s cigar smoke.
From that moment, as I looked around at everything it all began to move so fast. Like when you’re filming, and slow the camera so everything appears to accelerate.
I couldn’t image what my sister was seeing or thinking at that moment but I think it was worst for her, being older. That would prove true later on.
They couldn’t wait any longer. Only an hour or so had passed when the doctor told her it was time, they had to go. Natalie and I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital and everyone else followed. She was admitted immediately and taken to a room.
January 1, 1989. My sister and I sat in the hospital along with about twenty of my relatives, waiting. I watched while nurses and doctors zipped back and forth and other hospital patients staggered by pulling their IV stands and what-not along side them. They seemed to be moved at light speed passed me.
We would go and sit with her during the time the doctors weren’t in with her. My mother would try and tell us things while she drifted in and out of coherency. I sat there and listened and watched, everything. This, the most surreal time of my life was going by so fast and yet still, I felt paralyzed, like it was all some awful dream and I couldn’t shake myself awake.
That horrid, clean white stench of hospital filled the air. I felt like I could have choked on it-like it was strangling me. I was having a hard time catching my breath and everything looked white, despite the color it actually was.
I had looked over at Natalie; her expression was emotionless. Our grandmother, whom I had never seen any type of emotion from; couldn’t seem to control any of her emotions at the time. I sat and watched, that was a day of many “firsts” for me.
January 2, 1989. We all were there in the waiting room; the doctor asked us to come in; Natalie, Joe and myself; to say our goodbyes. We went in, we told our mother we loved her, we hugged her. A minute later as I watched the saliva bubble from her lips she took her last breath and she was gone. The cancer had spread to her liver and there was nothing they could do for her.
“CODE BLUE”, was all I heard ringing through the hospital. Doctor and nurses rushed into the room, gently moving us out. I thought to myself, “what were they going to do”? I barely recall doing anything else. I remember mostly, only the intrusiveness of smelling salt under my nose, which I can still smell from time to time.
Everyone was in tears, and grandmother had to be taken to a room of her own afterward. I think I left after that. All that was surrounding me was too much so I removed myself from it all right then and I don’t think I returned until the day of my mother’s funeral, at which time I was mostly just in and out consciousness.
Sometimes I reflect back on this time in my life; mostly when I am going through very hard struggles. And at those moments I wish so much to that my mother was around to help me through them. To give me advice, advice that only a mother can give. To teach me how to be a woman and how to avoid making mistakes that she made.
When I think back, I always wonder what my life would have or could have been like if she were still here and a feeling of sadness and despair overcome me because I know that’s something I’ll never know.
I do know that that my life changed on that day, whether for the good or for the bad I don’t yet know. I know that if she were still here I would be a different person; I would have made different decisions in my life. Ones that didn’t stem from suppressed anger and confusion, or from the fear of abandonment.
I can now safely say, that day was what would mold all of her children into the people they are now and who they’d be the rest of their lives.