My mother has decided to refuse treatment for her various illnesses. None by themselves are particularly life threatening, except for the cirrhosis. The combination, however, has left her bedridden. Unable to walk. In constant pain. It is no way to live, she has said.
As angry as I am, as much rage as I have right now, I do not wish her pain. Physical pain. Yes, I want her to grapple with the ways in which her alcoholism has fractured the family, fractured me. I want her to know how her self absorption, like a mirror held so close to her face the room disappeared, left her blind to the three young children right in front of her. Children who needed her and loved her desperately. I want her to feel that because I do everyday.
I do not want her to feel the physical pain, though. I am not cruel. I have been physically tormented- I know how it feels. As a child, I remember my arm pulled so far behind my back I thought my shoulder would rip apart while being held face down against the floor, unable to escape the stink of feet, dog pee and mildew…while she was somewhere. Around. Busy. I would wait and wait until I couldn’t bear anymore of the pain and then finally cry out her name.
Mom… Mom… MOM!!
And how it happened over and over and over again, in different ways, with different limbs, by different people.
I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to feel like she has to wait until she cannot bear anymore. I knew at nine years old what it felt like. I am wounded but not broken. I would never want that to happen to someone else.
I deserved it. Or at least I was told I did. The experience gave me compassion. I may have been bad, I may have been selfish but no one deserves to be tortured for their character flaws. I cannot watch someone suffer and not want to hold them and care for them. I know pain. Not just of my shoulder ripping but of the struggle to accept it, being unable to and ultimately crying out for help.
She has made her decision. At least for today, it is her decision. She will get frightened and change her mind. Everyone around her will embark on the roller coaster ride of the crisis she has created to keep all eyes on her- the mirror she holds close is as hard to resist as the next drink.
Her emotional pain I have no time for. Her choice. Her mirror. But the physical pain- I cannot stand. I know. Let go, I want to say. It’s okay. I want to hold her hand and by doing so, give her all my strength.
I don’t want her to wait until she cries out, unable to take anymore.
And I realize, I’m hooked again.