Excerpt from Don’t Bring Me Flowers

I am currently writing a collection of essays on mourning. This is an excerpt from one in honor of my mother who died December 26, 2008.

I want to know what my mother feels. Feelings are the way I connect best; it is what gives my life meaning. Feelings is the porthole through which I learn whether I can trust someone or not. My mother and I we speak a different language which neither of us understands.  What is it like having to be bed bound for six months? To have a leg amputated? To give up and wait. And wait. And wait.   

She shrugs her shoulders. “What do you think?” she says  in an anger which even the morphine cannot disguise. Her answer frightens me. I don’t know what to think except that I have once more failed to reach her. Failed to be a good daughter.

I have heard it said that the violence of grief can be softened by good memories. Can descending into unpleasant memories make a mother’s dying easier to accept? From my magic hat of flashbacks I am again the twelve-year-old finding my panties stained with blood.  We are alone in the house and I am grateful for that.  We have never talked about sex or menstruation. “Look,” I show her my panties. “There is blood.”  

“This will happen to you every month,” she says. There are no sanitary pads in the house and so she hands me some rags and a safety-pin. I wrap them around the crotch of my panties and tie them in place. I am off to school, humiliated and angry at my mother for not having been more prepared. She has ruined my passage to womanhood. And I hate her for this.

A nurse comes into the hospital room.  My mother offers her a bruised and skeletal arm for her to shoot more morphine into her veins as if her arm is an altar. My anger fades; memories evaporate.

Have a listen to this classic song by Alice Cooper


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