got close again with only a few spats here and there in between-one that happened on the very last night she was found and I (“Angie” with no label in her cell phone) got that 4 a.m. phone call and she was silenced forever.
Forever meant: After being found on the floor at her third shift job at a battered women’s shelter just not found soon enough)-having suffered a stroke. Hours after my and my middle brother’s 4 o’clock hour arrival; the swelling in her brain resulted in part of her skull needing removed in order for the swelling to take its course. Only then could we find out how much back to her (lively, humorous, resourceful, funny, way with words) self she’d ever be again.
So for the next 8 years until she died myself and my momma’s boy middle brother loved and babied her saw he through every emotion and conversation through sounds she could make to converse or agree or disagree and only speak the word “Steve.”
My mom always had an answer to add to anything I was cooking, thinking, wondering or feeling.
For those 8 years, it was agonizing knowing that my best gossip buddy and life resource’s quality of life was compromised in such a way and I had no one to turn to in ways like I could turn to her. All lessons, sessions, ways, instructions, remedies or recipes were no more.
With her being bedridden with no speech, we made due for the next eight years visiting her private room watching movies, videos or playing her favorite old school stations and watching her belly laugh like a child-uncontrollably while I’d sing (with complete choreography and performance): Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” or Luther Vandross’ “Don’t You Know That.”
It would be so funny. In Get Down On It, she’d love it when I’d get to the part where the guy says: “Get your back up off the wall! (And I heard all the people saying)”…I would perform it like I was two people. With the only hand she could raise, she got a kick out of that and would laugh uncontrollably.
Let me tell it, I got a meannnn male alto and falsetto and she loved it when I’d sing Don’t You Know That. I would be riffing and tearing that song up-with a little humor. Even before her stroke- we loved bonding through cooking and music.
While laying in her nursing home bed, I remember how she’d clutch her tummy laughing at how I’d dramatically jump back and point to her at the “DON’T you know that” part through the song-repeatedly. And on the bridge of the song (2:20-2:24) where Vandross’ background singer says: “Look out!” …I would put my hands over my brow really dramatic. That would send her painfully laughing. We had the best times in her nursing home room over these past 8 years. She didn’t have to care about what condition she was in-or nothing else. She had me and my middle brother who would be supervising, overseeing and bringing food (and being the total momma’s boy she always knew he’d be).
My older brother however, was off in the world playing the part she said he’d play in her time of need, indeed: Not there for her. To add insult to injury of the fact that he never visited her the entire 8 years she lay helpless-he didn’t even return the call or answer the texts at the moment she died or after….I was floored-she catered to him the most. Feeling the pressure of his dad’s side of the family-he was the child she always tried hardest to please. Because if she bought him a bike his dad’s mom bought 2 or bigger. He had no excuse to not be there for her. Throughout his life, she was conditioned to turning herself inside out for him and here we are (like she already knew he wouldn’t and my middle brother and me didn’t think would happen) he
was no where to be found didn’t care and after she died-neither did we. As far as I’m concerned, when your parent lays helpless and near infantile, there is no clean slate they don’t deserve and should you not give them that chance for one, you deserve nothing but your grave spit on. I watched her try too hard for him to not hate him to oblivion now.
She was right about all of us (except me) because despite all that she and I had been through, still-I was there even though I had no label in her cell phone list and with no speech, she couldn’t talk for us to laugh about why (and what I did that pissed her off the day she merely “Angie” ’d me in her phone with no label). Myself and my middle brother gave her 8 good years of her last, bedridden years. And my dad constantly stayed in attendance with her with the look on his face like he loves to brag about her beauty over mine that could never compared to that fine woman he first laid eyes on.
She was at peace, and happy and we didn’t need anybody else. And “peace” to me was every face I had seen in and out of that hospital room. Those were the same faces over the past 8 years I’d lost count seeing at my mother’s nursing home bedside with and without my brother. Also in that room was my brother’s bestie in from North Carolina and on my phone: my bestie in California whose mom worked for the city with my mom and both knew her well. I just didn’t need the theatrics and histrionics of even those that should have been called (her siblings and their kids), hugging me and and dropping tears on me over somebody who they barely saw in 8 years and never bothered to check in on how my middle brother and me were holding up (or no). And no-we weren’t. We were basket cases but held it together for each other right along with each and everyone who showed up at her hospital deathbed supporting us as they did over the past 8 years she lived bedridden in that nursing home we partied, laughed and fell asleep in many a day, nights and middle of the nights. That said, leaving some out wasn’t as much the hurt and a grudge as it was the energy of the room needing to be just where it was-no more, no less.
That March 6, 2014 God (The “King”) must’ve been giving me the nudge to prepare for life without my mom and that she was on her way to him the very evening I posted about this song being sang to me hours before she died and while I was writing this very blog on this very site March 7, 2014:
…She was here no more for us to gossip about my rambunctious middle brother’s decade compilation of girlfriends.
All of them one time or another had eaten at her table and been entertained by her entertaining presence-showed up in the hospital room while she lay there dead with a smile on her face.
I hugged her face, shed tears and gossiped about them all in her ear: [about how] each their made their way over to me with questions: “Angie who is she, and her and when….”
“Mum you should see these girls of Roderick’s all in this rooooommm hon-ey-child,” I laughed and cried while watching her lay there dead with a soft smile on her face.
Yes, I gossiped about them all to my mother-the one woman who I could laugh and gossip about that with but this time-was laying there dead and getting cold and just so happened to be the reason they all were there anyway.
I found solace in that moment of our last (non responsive) gossip session being the equivalent of how I’d still gossip with her over the past 8 years and she couldn’t speak back but knew what I was saying. I could only cry or hug and kiss her when I needed answers that she couldn’t give me but I thanked God that she was at least still there.
For 8 years, she lay bedridden. I felt bare, open and secretly vulnerable and helpless like a kid again.
The day she died I knew I had to grow up again. It was real.
But right next door, something else was going on and helped me through that evening:
My childhood friend (Davana-“Nae-Nae”) who grew as an adult with me (born February 24)’s mom-born July 24-a friend of my mom’s; lay next door fighting for her life as my friend and me stood over my mom (born September 24) reminiscing about all the good times we shared while he hugged and cried. That was further confirmation for me that God placed everyone where HE needed them to be for my brother and me. By relative right, although others were left out and (maybe) should have been called; by spiritual right it just didn’t feel right to invite their energy during this time of mourning (and celebration of the charming, resourceful, funny woman my mother was).
In that moment of real care in that room, I felt warm through my tears remembering her just before her stroke, dancing around the house-thinking she was poppin’ and an official rapper-I: her bouncing and dancing fan. Rap artist T.I’s Rubberband Man gave her LIFE. She was obsessed with that song and rapped every word and syllable. On the chrous at ‘Wild as the Taliban” …the ways she would dip her head like she meant it-it was so funny. It made her happy, so very happy.
…So right there, in the moment of her death, everything hurtful, bad, and good had come full circle for me into the night while I sat there alone staring at her swelling, cold body until rigor mortis set in.
And just like I had done for the past 8 years, I took my final selfie with her-no different than before, before I said my final goodbye and until her ashes would reach my hands.
As close as we all once were, it was odd that during those 8 years, I didn’t know any of them anymore. Although my grandma was the glue of the family had died during the time my mom had her stroke, still, my mom was her first born who they all sh|tted on by omitting and begrudging my mom of anything-keepsakes and all, that rightfully should had been my mom’s (up to and including big things my own mom bought for her now deceased mom). It was as if her stroke and inability to be herself again-they said ‘eff her’ (and her kids too-me and my middle brother yet, my oldest brother who too, never visited his dying mom, had their friendship continued to feel a family connection–when they should have been in his a$$ about never tending to their sister, and our mom). I was floored that they never shunned him to shame. Considering all that, I partially believe it was their guilt that kept them away from seeing my mom because to see my mom in the nursing home, they were guaranteed to run into either my middle brother or me (or our friends that would surely tell it). Days past and they all pretty much said fck it. After a while, those days then turned into years while my mom lay there gesturing me to keep the curtains closed because she didn’t want to look outside to see the sun and the cars driving by-watching life go on.
I remember the 1 and only 1 day I had to get her prepared and wheeled out for 1 appointment that could not come to her bedside. She had to face the outside that day. I could sense the stress in her spirit and her body. I sat in that nursing home van with her and cried with her back turned to me so she couldn’t see me cry. When we got into the building and had to get on the elevator (which had all mirrors), it was devastating. No matter which way she turned to avoid looking at herself she couldn’t. I hurriedly ducked from behind the wheelchair to kiss her and block her view. I was so hurt and hurt for her. That day killed me.
She couldn’t talk but she was very aware. Up until this time, I didn’t know she didn’t want to see herself. I already knew she didn’t want to see the outside and the sun-but not herself (despite the fact that by this time her skull was put back in, hair had grown and her face was still the same as before her stroke). It hurt me that she lay there for 8 years with the curtains closed and got sunlight from the lights in the room, her friends, our friends and the people that loved and came to see her. None of those people bringing sun were her 2 sisters, last surviving brother and their children (our same aged cousins). Even my career drug dealing criminal uncle (her oldest brother-locked up in Miami) continuously wrote letters the entire 8 years as if she could read and write back yet, his free, breathing and living sisters-just 5 and 15 mins away-hardly showed their faces or called. I feel I had every right orchestrating keeping them away and letting my mom go in literal peace.
Given all their 8 year inattendance (and a few) superficial yearly routine birthday and holiday occasional visits and having learned more about them all through my mom’s 8 year silence than I did by years of observation and conversations; (less the extended details about why I, in agreement with my middle brother, didn’t even allow her very own two sisters, last surviving brother and cousins know she died until she was ashes the next day) all that’s the long backstory (about
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