Out, Out Damned Spot!

It’s Thursday, and the little blue mark on my thumbnail is fading.

I first noticed it through a blur of tears Sunday morning when I put my hands on the steering wheel at “ten and two” and headed north up Highway 61 — the road stretched out straight and flat ahead of me, tall signs and neon flashing red. I had been crying aloud and begging for answers since I said good-bye to my mother and drove away from Deering Street and the house of my childhood. “How do I leave the home I grew up in, the only ‘home’ I’ve ever known?” “How do I leave my mother, knowing I won’t see her standing at the front door waving, ever again?” “How do I bear this pain?”

On Monday morning my mother would be leaving her home of 60 years. My sister would be driving her to the State VA Home in Oxford, Mississippi, where she will have around-the-clock help and palliative care. Only, my mother didn’t know that yet. I’d spent four days trying to assure her that we would make sure she had 24-hour care and we’d always be there for her. I couldn’t even assure myself that things would be okay.

In gathered times when I could catch some private moments, I’d wash her clothes and label them LH with a blue fine-point Sharpie and pack them in a black suitcase. And with every item I lay in a stack, I’d sob, “Please, God, forgive me.” And I knew I’d never forgive myself.

Mama has lung cancer that has metastasized. She also has dementia — or is it really cancer in her brain mimicking the symptoms of dementia? I believe the latter. There’s no good answer to our dilemma of how to care for her. There’s no solution I like. There’s just damn nothing.

Oh, to be an “unfeeling rock,” as Young expresses it in The Shack.

Even with me in the house right beside her, she overdosed on her pain medications and put two patches on because she didn’t remember that one had already been placed. She warmed up her leftover Captain D’s catfish in a skillet and got involved with another task and left the eye on, and the fish burned and the smoke alarm went off. It is time to put safety first.

For my heart, it will never be time.

The blue spot may fade from my fingernail, but it will never go away from my heart.

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