a writer who publishes his own work I am allowed a few indulgences. I do not
write this to be performed. However, you may if you wish. I write this because I need to. My mom loved forensics and
I would take her with me to nationals as a judge. It was the only real traveling
she had ever had a chance to do. We spent many special times together over the
years on these trips.
I was going to dedicate this book to my
mother but a simple one-liner at the bottom of the table of contents seemed to just be an insult to all she meant to me. I’m embarrassed to also admit this is for selfish reasons. I have been dry since her death. I have been unable to put
an original thought to paper until now. My wife reminded me tonight that mom
was so proud of my ability to write that she would surly not have taken it with her.
My dear friend David Ralph, whom I write with, came down two days to see if he could help me out; get the “spark”
back. You probably don’t know, but David was a student of mine many years back.
I hope he doesn’t mind me writing this but I always felt that he was my success story. Teachers don’t receive medals or a whole lot of money. So,
when I was witness to a confused young man, who refused to go to one single debate tournament for me his sophomore year, grow
to be someone anyone would be proud to have as their son, I was truly blessed. My
ego sometimes gets the better of me and I like to think being in that school at that time allowed me to play a small role
in Dave’s choice to become a teacher. My mother beamed with pride when
she told others that not one, but all three of her boys grew up to be teachers. She
worked as a secretary in a middle school and knew how important positive role models were for those who had none. She would often tell me of times she would pull troubled kids close and give them the “tough love”
she dealt all those years to her own children. She
would often joke they would probably fire her because it wasn’t her job. But
they didn’t fire her and years rolled by with her helping child after child that came through her office angry, confused
and in need of something she innately possessed. Besides extremely short legs,
this ability was the most prominent thing she passed on to her children. I left
the classroom last year to be a principal. It was toward the end of the school
year when she passed. It would be an understatement to say I felt as if my life
had no purpose.
I have since left that position and went
back to the classroom. I needed that connection with kids again. If just for a while, I needed to do the thing again my mother said all her kids were born to do, teach.
The pain from a mother’s death is
hard to bear. I have always been very closed with my feelings. My mother shared this trait. Situations where others would
cry, mom and I would talk about why we didn’t feel the need. It wasn’t
as if we didn’t hurt, we did, but it just manifested itself differently. Some
people would call us cold hearted, but they would be very wrong. I can’t
tell you how often I wanted to cry since her passing, but I just don’t. She
would not begrudge me this.
My mother had a condition that caused
her heart to enlarge, in turn causing her valves to leak. She was on medication
to shrink the heart in hopes that the leaking would stop. It slowed, but did
not. She would walk miles every night and pray very hard to be healed but
it just wasn’t getting the job done. A decision had to be made. She always panicked at the thought of not being able to do all the things she could
before. She was an active vibrant soul and to her, the thought of being less
was unbearable. If she did not have
an operation she would live, years perhaps but the condition would worsen and finally she would be incapacitated and die. Or she could have open-heart surgery to fix the problem. She prayed some more and her and my father decided to go ahead with the surgery. My father hated hospitals. Years earlier he had watched as
his own father faded while confined in the glorified hollows of a hospital; watched as his father was misdiagnosed and died.
Mom told him it was all in God’s
hands and who could argue with that? Mom and I joked before the operation that
if she died, it would make a great story for me. We laughed, but it wasn’t
genuine. She was very afraid.
As my two brothers, sister and father joined
at the hospital on the day of the surgery every thing seemed to be going just fine.
I never even entertained the thought of a mishap. Mom would be fine and
home in a few days and we would all celebrate for the next twenty years.
Hours into the surgery, when she was supposed to be out, the nurse called down to the waiting room and told us it would
be longer but everything was going fine. I watched dad’s face as
he got off the phone. He was shaken. This
is man who had been through so much in his life, and never shown distress. I
began to worry. I could spend hours telling of the loving relationship between
my parents, high school sweethearts, who were bonded in way that I have seen no other couple.
But you will just have to take my word on it.
Mom did come out of surgery, and
hour or so later than expected. When she was finally moved to her room we all
breathed a sigh of relief. Over the next few hours she was talking and
seemed to be doing great. We all spoke with her, but nothing meaningful as we
would all be back in the morning and she would be doing even better by then. So,
at around 9:00 pm, all of us children went home to stay at mom and dad’s house an hour away. My dad stayed. I told myself, “See there was nothing
to worry about”. We had just gotten into bed when we got the call. She had thrown a blood clot and we needed to come.
We all raced back to the hospital where we found our dad down where they did CAT scans.
He was lost. What would he do without her?
The clot had caused some bleeding in the brain, a stroke. They moved her back to ICU.
From this point on I am haunted by memories of the remaining time I had to spend with the woman who made me who I am. My older brother, Carl, was alone in the ICU room with her, keeping the family vigil. Hours passed and he came to get me. He
was crying, “I can’t do it anymore.” By the look of his face,
this wasn’t just a feeling, but a fact. He was emotionally and physically
drained. It was my turn. Alone with
mom, I sat by her side. It was quiet. The
only sounds were the artificial interrupted beeps from the machine that spit out vitals: blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Mom would go periods of several seconds where she wouldn’t breathe. I would panic and shake her shoulders, “Breathe mom, breathe” and she would again.
When she woke, she wanted out of bed and
kept trying to sit up. “I just want to get up. Why can’t I just get up?” As she moved the left
side of her body was immobile. Her words were slurred as one side of her face
was paralyzed. I still thought she was going to live and the thoughts
of her telling me she would never want to be like this broke me. I cried as I
held her down on the bed. “Mom you’ve had a stroke, you can’t
“I can too, you just need to help
me. Why won’t you help me? Carl
would help me if he was here.”
“No mom you can’t!” I raised my voice trying to sound stern. I
wanted so badly to let her up.