Note to self: Love people because they're not here long
On Sunday my mother and father and I went out on one of the most beautiful afternoons God ever made, and looked for deer at the 260-acre cemetery nearby. My father and I wheeled Mom to the tombstone of “George the Snoozing Cowboy” and made her walk across the grass to it. Then we fetched my husband and all went to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I got her a glazed doughnut and an ice coffee.
The next morning, between the time my mother phoned me at about 10:30 a.m. and my father got home from work at about 1 p.m., my mother somehow landed herself on the floor near her bed and was lying there till Dad called me and I dialed 911. The ambulance took her away to the hospital, where we learned she had had a massive stroke. Her right side is paralyzed, and though she had her eyes open on Monday and Tuesday (looking only to the left), the last two days she has not opened them at all, and she has not spoken.
My mother used to phone me all day long, with rambling false alarms. Now that I may never hear her voice again, I am pathetically replaying her last messages left on my answering machine. Who would have thought that the final words your mother would ever say to you after 62 years of speech were, “Call me when you get home, OK?” Who ever thinks that there will be last words?
My father, who was sometimes annoyed and worn out by my mother’s relentless demands, would now give anything to be annoyed and worn out, to hear her command a cupcake from the pastry shop around the corner. He stands by the hospital bed and pleads, but she will not indulge him with an annoyance.
I had been meaning to record my parents’ stories in their own words for my children but had gotten only as far as locating the tape recorder and an old tape to tape over. What do I do now—yank the little recorder from the landline and give my kids four messages full of coughing and hacking and asking where my father is and when I’m coming over?
Note to self: Love people because they’re not here long. Never mind, skip the note. The words are gouged into my heart.
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