After the diagnosis, I recoiled, withdrew from all feeling; I folded myself into oblivion. While continuing the physical responsibilities of life like a time-ticking robot, I died emotionally.
It was only months later that I realized I had worked very hard to suppress my anger and my fear. In the wake of Momma’s greatest need, I overcompensated with selfish priorities.
Self-reflection now reveals that there was an astounding fear that by being in her presence, I would be sucked into a sinkhole where the pressures closing in on me would make it impossible to escape. Like the sinking quick-sand nightmare of my childhood, every effort to pull away or climb out only resulted in a firmer grip from the suffocating walls of the hole.
Wasn’t Momma always there for me? Didn’t she sacrifice her freedom and her own selfish desires to raise me and give me her best? Of course I owe it to her to give her all that I have. And yet, this seems to be a theoretical idea, not a practical way to function.
There is an Arabian proverb that says that if I carry my mother on my back to Mecca, it is nothing compared to what she has given me.
Oh, yes, that sounds so good poetically, but the truth is not nearly so beautiful.
Mechanically and without thought or feeling, I would lay out the morning meds and set the coffee so that all she had to do was flip on the button. I had things scheduled for her days so that it wouldn’t feel too long for her while I was gone: I scheduled someone to bring her lunch, take her to her hair appointment, sit with her for a few hours, drive her around town, … Sometimes I even had someone scheduled to take her out to dinner.
I would come home from work and encourage Momma to get out of bed and get dressed. We would sit in the living room and we would eat dinner in our chairs. I would give her the evening meds followed by some chocolate. I would then say that my work was not finished so I needed to return to the office. The truth, however, was that I could not sit there any longer. I no longer had conversational ideas, nor did I have the energy to create smiles. I was tired and depressed and most of all, I feared that if I sat there one more minute, the shifting sands would swallow me.
I wasn’t fully without feeling however, because so swathed in guilt, I would give her an extra piece of chocolate before leaving. Guilt was the only thing I could feel. I returned in the middle of the night and prayed Momma wouldn’t notice.