All About My Mother/Todo Sobre Mi Madre
January 22, 2011:
Walked the streets alone late at night. Had sunk into an unexplainable dread, almost foretelling the impending tragedy. Read some Dostoevsky before trying to sleep.
January 23, 2011:
Seems like I just close my eyes when phone buzzes at 6:26 a.m. "Dad Cell" in white letters on a blue screen. I think it's a dream. I answer. Dylan, I need you to come home immediately. Why? What's wrong? It's Mom. Mom's dead. WHAT? You mean your mom? No. Ours. I don't know. I just need you to come home. OK. I hang up the phone. 47 seconds becomes an eternity. Oh god. Dead. Mom. I shake. I can't cry. I stare at my reflection in the mirror and hope that it's a dream. And then I pick up the phone again and call my sisters to tell them that our mom is dead. Dead. What does that even mean? How do I tell them?
I call Mabel to tell her that Mom is dead. I remember years earlier when she told me what to do in the event of Mom's death: "You'd better be the one to tell me, and you'd better tell me IMMEDIATELY." I can't believe I'm actually doing it now. WHAT? she screams, angry at me for saying what I've just said." WHAT DO YOU MEAN "MOM IS DEAD"? Our mother is DEAD, I pronounce. I don't remember the change in my voice, but Mabel does. I recall the sound of silence, pierced by a guttural wail I've never heard in my life. Mabel sobs from the depths of her soul. It's a sound no actor could ever fake. It's real grief. I've never known it before. Neither has she.
How many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years will pass until this new pain stops? How long will we live without Mom?
911. After being rushed to the hospital by ambulance, Mom is pronounced dead at 4:54 a.m. among strangers. How could I be asleep and not know that she has died? While your mother died, you were sleeping. She died among strangers. Vomiting, diarrhea, a sharp pain in the dead of night. Food poisoning, they thought. Dad boils tea on the stove, it will help. Hears Mom cry for help. She collapses, lies unconscious. Things are terribly wrong. Dad says his goodbyes. And then she is gone. One day there is life. A woman, in the best of health, not even old, with no history of illness--suddenly falls for the last time. Life stops. And it can stop at any moment. Our hearts are ticking time bombs. She was 48, but it could've been 42, 24, 13, 7, __.
Somehow I book a plane ticket home. Homeland Security detains me for thirty minutes to question me about a calligraphy pen and a cigar. I scream and sob hysterically while they do it. I want everyone in the airport to see how absurd it is. I shout, "My mom is dead. I need to get home. My plane is about to leave. Please. My only mother has just died, and I don't even know how. Just keep my backpack. Keep everything. I need to get on that plane." Calm down, ma'am, they tell me. "CALM DOWN? How can I calm down? MY ONLY MOM IS DEAD."
I arrive "home." Mom's not there to greet me, and I half expect that I'll walk into the dining room and see her sipping Chardonnay and smoking a cigarette--decidedly not dead. Instead Dad, Mabel, Sophie, and Scarlett hug me. We cry together. Shock. Trauma. Disbelief.
In a week we'll have Mom's funeral. The days begin to feel like dreams. Can't tell what's real anymore.