I didn’t expect my life after my mother’s death to be a straight path. I don’t specialize in straight paths.
I expected it to be bumpy—and it is. It’s also curvy.
Some of the curves have been a little scary. Every tenth day or so I turn around and don’t quite know who I am or what my future will be.
I try to see this uncertainty as a challenge. Mostly I succeed. But a girl can tire of challenges.
Some of the curves are oddly gentle.
Last Thursday night I took my 86-year-old neighbor Alice to the hospital, to the same emergency room that had been my destination with both of my parents.
Alice had fallen in the middle of the day. By evening her leg was so sore that she wasn’t sure she could get to bed. So she called me—and my friend Esther and I helped her into my car. We got to the ER around 9:30.
In strolled the sympathetic red-haired doctor who had charmed my mother on her last visit. Unlike me, my mother was not a woman to use the word “cute” lightly. Nevertheless, I believe it passed through her lips that night last August as she grasped his hand.
The whole experience could have been a bad curve for me—not to mention poor Alice, who was definitely in a great deal of pain.
It could have made the grief turn around and around and around in me as I remembered being there with my mother and facing her death for the first time, not as something bound to happen at some point in the distant future but as something almost sure to happen very soon.
Somehow instead of a scary spiral this ER visit turned into a calm unraveling, a path toward healing.
It made me smile to see the staff continue to do for Alice and others what they did for my mother on a very difficult night. Acting kind and concerned and competent. Going on.
And of course it was wonderful to be able to bring Alice home that night. We eventually found out that she has a hairline fracture of her hip, which will heal with a lot of rest (NOT something my dynamo neighbor is good at, but we all need our challenges) and lots of cosseting from children and friends.
She was sore, but she wasn’t dying. Not soon, anyway.
The night wasn’t a do-over. I love Alice, but she’s not my mother.
It WAS a comfort, however.