By Brian Arsenault
I forgot the joy of gum. For a long time. Years actually. The neat little package. The double wrapping. The fragrance you get just before popping it into your mouth. The wish that the flavor would last longer. I became a grownup, I guess. Cigarettes for a long while. Not gum. Later there was that partial dental plate to deal with, don’t ya know. Might pull the damn thing right off and glom up my mouth.
Then Mom was sick in the hospital and I kept asking over the phone, before I did the daily three times drive, if there was anything she wanted. One day there was something. Gum. Gum? OK gum.
Arriving at the store I realized I hadn’t bought gum in years. Bunch of different flavors and brands. Didn’t recognize anything. So I bought five packs. Finally spotted Doublemint. Hey, I know that one. Took the pocketful of packs to her room and dumped them on that tray on wheels they put the inedible meals on. Sick as she was Mom laughed at that. In the end, I probably chewed more of it than she did. I’m back. Gum junky for life.
Mom never had much more of anything after that day. Not gum or coffee– she loved coffee. Or food or much of anything. Not even medication, except for the one that kept the pain away.
I came in the second day at the hospital and she had told the staff no more IV, no more anti-biotics. No more treatment. No more anything. Could Dr. Kevorkian be called in to assist. She actually said something like that.
She was incredibly brave. Not sure I wouldn’t call for EVERYBODYYY like Norman Stansfield in The Professional, before Matilda said hello. And I knew, I just knew the young doctor was proud of her. Mom knew without knowing the full diagnosis. A lot more than persistent pneumonia which in a 92 year old woman was bad enough.
What he really wanted to know was if I was going to throw myself across the bed and sob for every treatment and test they could give my mother or was I going to show a little courage myself. He seemed almost relieved when I said I’d comply with her wishes.
He didn’t want to hurt her at the final stage. First, do no harm. That’s the credo, isn’t it?
So now Kath and I are slowly cleaning out her place, finding photos and stuff I haven’t seen for decades. It’s a form of time traveling, of circling above places and events and sensations when anyone else who ever shared them is gone. A strange feeling.
And I keep wondering what day I should call Mom to go for groceries. Did I call yesterday? No, oh damn, she’ll be annoyed. My sister in law Linda, another only child, told me she still does that two years after her mother died.
I wonder if Mom’s mad at the cable company again. Do they know it’s her by caller ID and fight over who has to answer. And she was never completely satisfied with my explanation as to why the money in her bank account wasn’t kept In Cash right at her branch. Not happy either that the bank statement was mailed from another state.
Unlike Camus, I know when mother died, to the minute. Like Camus, I’m not sure how I should feel. A piece of you gets cut away and it’s not coming back. Still, the sun’s coming up over the hill behind the house this morning. And they’re still making gum.
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