I found out today my mother would be evaluated for hospice tonight. No surgery in two weeks. Finally, her pain will be addressed. She will be made comfortable. Her wine poured liberally. Finally.
I wish I were relieved.
Instead, I’m numb.
Walter came over after hearing the news. Let’s plant your trees, he said. He had found four pines at a great price the other day and bought them for me. 12-foot trees at an 8-foot price.
We rolled the huge root balls into the holes dug. Shoveled dirt, shifted the trees to get their best side forward. We talked about the kids for a little while. Shoveled some more.
You know, he said to me as we paused for a minute, I’ll go with you to Rochester if you need me to. If Jeanine can’t.
His kindness and empathy is why I wanted him to be my children’s father. Why he is my best friend. For a moment, I am feeling again. I feel loved. Deeply. Cared for. Understood.
We dig some more. The trees are straight in their holes. The branches still list to one side from having been on the truck.
They’ll straighten out, he tells me.
What are you going to do about San Francisco?
Jeanine and I were planning a trip out to San Francisco in two weeks. Five days away, without the kids. She has a conference her job was sending her to and I would have a chance to get ready for my mother’s surgery without the kids around. Deal with my anxiety without yelling at them, being unavailable. It was part of the plan.
I think we’ll still go. Still plan on it, at least.
Good, he starts to dig again, you should. You can’t stop living and you can’t know what will happen.
And I am reminded of the same words coming from my friend Margaret when I was pregnant with my first child. We were making plans for a group of us to rent a house on the Cape for a weekend. The time picked was two weeks before my due date. I wasn’t sure I should commit to anything so close.
You’re better off with a ton of plans, Margaret said to me, otherwise, you’ll be sitting around waiting and that will drive you nuts. You can’t know when it will happen.
I gave birth to Ben on the Saturday night of the weekend away. All happy on wine, the group called the nurse’s station and actually got through to my room, where I was having contractions. Jeanine chatted with them. One little girl had taken her first steps, they reported. Everyone was excited and thrilled to be part of Ben’s birth, even if only by phone.
Now, I know, I need to make plans. Apple picking this weekend with friends. Naughty Moms dinner. Overnight in Maine to get the house ready to be closed. And a trip to San Francisco.
In some ways, I’ve been getting ready for my mother’s death for years. Doctors have said time is short so often their words are met with raised eyebrows and a chuckle- you don’t know my mother. This is different. She has given up. This time, her pain outweighs her fear.
I planted four trees today. Next year at this time, they should have grown about a foot. The roots will have worked through the rotted burlap and taken hold. Walter and I will admire our work. They will be part of the fabric of our friendship. They will always remind me of how Walter took care of me. How he had me dig when I could do little else.
And of the day I knew my mother finally said goodbye.