Alabaster Cow? And how about Mommypants? They are two talented and gifted writers who have co-founded The Red Dress Club, a virtual writer's group. Every Friday, they will be hosting a "flex your writing muscles" workshop. Today, their writing prompt is "to create a short fiction piece starting with these two words "your mother." Here is mine:
"Your mother, oh, your mother....she is not well. She is not like other mothers. You must take care of her. Promise me you'll take care of her."
I opened my mouth and inhaled deeply, knowing I needed to stop myself from saying the words I truly wanted to say. Words that came rushing to my mouth, and that would have been directed at the wrong person. My grandmother was dying. The moment I had both feared and prayed for, was here. I had long wished to be at her side when she left me, and not be told with a phone call. How strange it felt to be here, in the hospital with her at this moment, with my heart's desire.
I held her soft, soft hands, staring at them, while memories filled my mind as quickly as the tears that were now spilling out of my eyes. I thought about these hands, and how many times they had gently pulled a comb through my hair, while she softly sang her songs to me. She repeated her plea, "Will you? Will you, please?" Reading my thoughts, she said, "it has to be you. No one else will. You are the patient one. Always you, the one with patience."
She could feel the fatigue and heaviness about my past in my silence. "I know, she has not been good to you. She can't be, she doesn't know how to be. Without me, she will be alone. You must promise me."
I tried to focus on my grandmother's face, the one who raised me. I could see the shape of the face that I had seen through my whole life. I could make out the features that have always been there. Not even the blurred cloudiness of the tears in my eyes could remove the image in front of me. There was the faint sound of the EKG monitor beeping, such a slow beep, that it was hard to believe it was truly on. The neon green heart beats that had been jumping upward on the screen had slowed to a blinking number 24. 24 beats per minute, her heart was slowing down to nothing for me to see.
I took a moment and steadied my voice, knowing that if I spoke too soon, she would hear nothing but a hoarse, breaking attempt. "Abuelita," I said, feeling the richness of still having her here to say these words to. "Abuelita, I love you, I love you so very much. If you need me to do this, for you to go, then I will. I will do it."
She let out a soft sound that could have been a sigh of relief. I cannot remember, it may have been her last breath, also. At the same time of her deep exhalation, the green blip on the screen that had been measuring her heartbeats, stopped. I blinked and stared, grabbing the bedrail, as if that act would help me to understand the reality of what the machine was forcing me to accept.
I felt myself wanting to shout her name, and grab her by the shoulders and shake her telling her she had to stay with me. I barely recognized myself in the force of those feelings. She was all I have ever had in my life. She couldn't leave me. One of the hardest things in that moment was to stop myself from those actions that I wanted to do more than anything.
Instead, I stood at her beside, numb with awe in realizing that I had received the only gift that I had sincerely prayed for since I was a little girl, to be here, with her, at the time of her death. Yes, I had prayed to be with her at this time, but never had I dared to believe that I'd be blessed with my prayer answered.
I squeezed my eyes shut, in the deepest prayer of thanks that my soul has ever sent. It was in this moment of humbling realization of the miracle that had just been given to me, that I found the ability to do what had to be done next.
I walked over to the phone, and dialed the number for her Doctor. I told him the time of her deep sigh, according to what the military time clock on the hospital wall above the bed showed. I didn't call the nurses, they didn't need to come yet. I stood next to her bed, and stared hard at the face that I was so afraid I would forget. Time has a way of fading your memory, even from the things that you think you are unforgettable.
I was counting on this to be on my side. Maybe time would help me forget the things that needed to be forgotten, so I could keep my promise to my grandmother. I reached for the phone, and began to push the buttons that would connect me to my mother.
She would need help with arranging my grandmother's funeral.