the time that Mom died
I got a sobbing call from Mom’s boyfriend saying she went into cardiac arrest. Twice. Doctors are saying her heart stopped for fifteen minutes. They won’t know if she has any brain function for 72 hours. I’m flying back to California to be with her. It’s going to be the longest 72 hours of my life. If you pray, please pray for her.
And Mom, I’ve loved you since the very beginning. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever known. Wake up. Tell me one of your stupid jokes. Blow your money on worthless lottery scratchers. Eat Oreo’s for dinner.
Please. Wake up.
If you don’t come back from this, I won’t either.
Mom is on life support but they said her heart is strong. She died twice and they were able to bring her back. We were originally worried that she would be a vegetable if she wakes up, but when she’s not sedated she fights the nurses. Way to go, Mom! She has fight in her still and that made me so happy. They still don’t know brain activity levels as they haven’t been able to do a brain scan because she hasn’t been stable enough. So, I wait. And I pray.
I am so tired but I can’t leave her side. Between me and her boyfriend she has someone with her at all times. He got her this adorable little bear that she hasn’t let go of.
Wake up, Mom.
We are here.
I’m holding onto hope with a grip so tight all the blood has drained from my fingers and my knuckles are as white as the moon. Because if I don’t have hope then I don’t have anything.
I’m self medicating with gospel albums by Sam Cooke, memories of Mom laughing at her own jokes, and holding her swollen hand and stroking her wild curls.
I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude for the love that has poured from my family and friends, and Mom’s friends. Since 10am this morning to 10pm tonight Mom has had visitor after visitor. It warms my soul to see the love and hope poured onto her.
Wake up, Mom.
We are here.
Mom is back!
I came in dragging my hope behind me and now I am over the moon. As soon as they woke her up and took the tube out she reached for me and said, “my moo moo.” That’s her pet name for me. I hugged her for eternity. I have never been so happy.
The second thing she said was “I’m a highlander.” For those of you who know her, you’ll know what that means. Or if you’ve ever seen the show from the 90s, you’ll know. The whole time she was on life support I kept telling her that she was The Highlander. And man, she really is.
They said they thought she was going to be a vegetable and man, she’s talking and moving and remembers everything. She’s already trying to get out of the bed. YES.
Thank you God for bringing back my Mom. I knew you would.
1995. Mom’s third time in prison. I was nine. She was two years into her sentence at this point.
Fast forward 24 years. 2019. I’m turning 33 this year. Mom is turning 56 in August. She is no longer in prison, but she continues to live a wild life.
The doctor called. He found out why she died and why they had to bring her back (twice).
I knew she was on drugs, but damn. He said if she keeps doing them she could die. Again. That breaks my heart because I don’t see how she can stop. She’s pretty much been on drugs my entire life. She was clean for a short time when I was in high school. And she had me fooled for quite some time after that, well into college. Until the cop’s came to the door. Again.
When I told her what the doctor said she replied, “I can stop for my moo moo.”
I told her I’ve heard that before.
I’ve put my life on hold so many times. For her. To go back to the soul crushing desert. For her. To stay in the house full of her junkie friends. For her.
Even moving 2,000 miles away I am still being pulled back to the chaos that is her.
I’m just so tired. Mentally and emotionally I am broken and so damn tired. Mom wants the best for me, but her addiction has shattered my life so many times. And this was the worst.
But man, I love her. So, where do I go from here? I have to prepare myself for her to die. Every time I say goodbye I will have to act like it’s the last time I’ll see her. Because if she keeps using then chances are it will be. How do I cope with that? How do I mourn someone who is still alive?
Mom, you’re supposed to protect me from all this. But how can you? I promise, if I could protect you, I would. You know I would. You know I’ve tried. I’m here. If you need help to heal, to change. I’m here.
I had a dream last night where I was stuck in a deep well of wet concrete in a public place like shopping mall or a courtyard. I sunk so far down in the concrete that only my eyes were visible. I watched as everyone walked by. Only a few even noticed me and only a couple called for help. But help never came. The longer I was stuck there the more painful it was because as it dried it felt like I was being crushed. Then I woke up.
I am stuck.
Stuck in Victorville. Stuck being the daughter of a lifelong drug addict. Stuck being the granddaughter of a well-meaning, broken-hearted enabler. Stuck taking care of a sick puppy who I would give the world to make better. Stuck loving them all so much that my heart hurts.
People say I have a choice in all this. But I don’t. When it’s family, I don’t. When it’s family, this is just what you do. I know Mom would do the same for me. I know Grandma would do the same for me. So, here I am, doing everything I can for them. Stuck, but still hoping and praying for the best possible outcome on all fronts.
“I’m sorry about all of this, moo moo.”
That’s what Mom said after staring at me from her hospital bed amongst the sea of beeping machines and tangled cords.
She is well aware of the pause I’ve placed on my life, for her. For drugs.
“It’s okay, Mom,” I replied.
We’ve been waiting for the results of Mom’s MRI because the neurologist found something behind her left eye. Yesterday she told me the results. A brain aneurysm.
They have to wait until she is stronger before they do surgery. If it ruptures she could die. Leading causes of rupture are high blood pressure and smoking cigarettes. She struggles with both. She can’t remember to take her blood pressure meds to save her life, literally. And she’s been smoking Marlboros for as long as I can remember.
I told her that her life just got a lot less fun. No drugs. No smoking. No rollercoasters.
She laughed. Her spirits were high.
She pushed her glasses with the cotton candy pink frames up over her head and stared at me from across the hospital room.
While holding a half eaten Reese’s peanut butter Easter egg, she said, “Do you know why this happened?”
“Why?” I replied.
“Because I wanted to live a better life—to turn my life over to God—and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I knew I couldn’t stop living like this. I told Him to do whatever it takes. Looks like this is what it takes. It was either this or jail.”
“Do you regret telling Him that?”
“Even after all this?”
Mom shook her head no.
It was shocking to hear her talk like that. I didn’t even know she was seeking God in the first place. But this explains why her spirits are high and why she sounds so strong. If she believes her strength comes from God then she might actually be able to quit this time. The inclusion of God makes this time different. I’ve prayed for her my whole life. I’ve prayed for peace for her. She’s always struggled so hard just to be a person. And if her heart can finally feel lighter, even after all this, man I am thankful.
When I told her she’s had all her vices stripped away, she replied with, “I can still gamble though, right?”
We both laughed.
Classic Mom. One arm stretched toward the light, the other holding onto darkness. But I guess that’s all of us.
Mom is STILL in the hospital with not even a tentative date for when she can come home.
But she’s alive.
That leaves me stuck in my grandma’s meth house where there are even more germs and even less hope than the hospital.
But I’m grateful I have a job that allows me to work from anywhere (even a meth house) so that I can be here for Mom.
I wake up feeling positive but by the end of the day I am drowning in hopelessness and negativity.
That’s how I feel.
“Mom woke up. She is alive.”
I say those words over and over to remind myself of how much I have to be grateful for.
“It’s been 24 days since Mom has used meth. That’s good, right?”
I remind myself that it is.
But that also means that I’ve been stuck in this shit hole town in this filthy house surrounded by toxic people for 24 days.
I tell myself that Mom can stay off the drugs because well, if she doesn’t, she’ll die.
“She can do it. She’s done it before.”
The doctor comes in and explains how people who’ve suffered through cardiac arrest usually only live for 1-3 years.
What kind of awful stat is that to tell someone.
The doctors and nurses, they all say Mom is a miracle. She has beat all the statistics. And I say she’ll beat this one too.
“Moo moo, let me give you some advice...”
I already felt like this was going in a weird direction because Mom never gives unsolicited advice. She’s never spoken words into my life that I didn’t ask for. She’s not that kind of a Mom—the kind that tries to tell you what to do without taking the time to truly understand who you are.
But this advice wasn’t as much about me as it was about her.
“You need to take a life insurance policy out on me,” she continued.
My heart broke, partly for me because I don’t want her to die but mostly for her because that’s a heart-wrenching thing to have to say to your daughter.
“Mom, you’re not going to die,” I replied.
“Someday I will.”
“Well then we will talk about this someday.”
“It’s only like thirty bucks a month or something like that.”
“What? No. I can’t do it, Mom. You can live for a long time if you take care of yourself moving forward.”
This whole conversation jarred me because Mom has this weird intuition about things. And she’s always right.
When I lost my virginity I called her at work and she knew it before I could even say “Hi Mom.”
The first day I introduced her to Perry—back in 2006—and all he said was hello she already knew that I’d end up with him. At the end of the day she said, “that’s the one you’re going to marry.”
When I’m feeling really down I’ll often get a call from her and she’ll say, “Are you okay, moo moo?”
She just knows. We have this deep connection that goes beyond words.
So what does she know now? Was she trying to tell me something? Does she feel like she’s going to die soon?
I hope not.
What she does know is that she has ANOTHER blood clot and they had to start her on blood thinners again.
Day 30. Discharge date not in sight.
Day 33. Mother’s Day.
When your Mom is not like other Moms and all the shitty greeting cards can’t even begin to describe her. When she thinks flowers are dumb and going shopping is a bore. When she’ll rock out with you to your favorite bands and stay up until 2am eating pizza and talking about the zombie apocalypse. When she doesn’t care if you get your dress dirty or if you wear a dress at all. When she tells you not to take shit from anyone and teaches you how to stand up for yourself.
That’s my Mom and it takes a hell of a lot more than a day to celebrate her.
I love you, Mom.
Infinity x the universe double root squared.
Mom’s home! FINALLY.
She still has a lot of healing to do and she needs a whole life’s worth of rest, but she’s home. Her two pups are showering her in kisses and that’s the most healing thing of all.
Thank you all for your prayers, for your love, and for your support. If you’re the praying kind, please continue, not just for her physical health, but for her mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
She is walking back into a house of drug addicts. They aren’t bad people but I worry they can’t help but pull her down with them.
I always liken her to Tinker Bell from the original Peter Pan. She’s this beautiful light that illuminates everywhere she goes and everyone wants her around. They all want a little piece of her light. They take and they take until Mom is left dim and barely flickering.
I’ve offered to take her home with me back to the blue mountains of the south, but she’s not ready. She’s lived in the desert almost her whole life and this is all too much for her to grasp right now. So, here I am again, praying and hoping. Because if I don’t have hope then I don’t have anything.
I believe in her. I believe in us.
Hold onto your light, Mom. And here, take some of mine.
This is a rare photo of Mom with me at a restaurant. Last year I came to California for three months and she didn’t go out to eat with me once. In fact she hadn’t gone to a restaurant with me in over a year. Mom could never sit still long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee let alone a whole meal. She’s always coming and going. It’s been the running theme of her life, and mine.
Since she’s been out of the hospital she’s gone out to eat with me twice and one of the times was her idea. I know it probably doesn’t sound like a big deal — going to dinner with your Mom — but it’s huge for me. I hold onto these moments with her where she is lucid and bright, where she’s here and still, where I’m not trying to get my time in with her in fleeting moments of her going from her room to the garage, most of my words bouncing off the back of her head.
This is better.
Kisses on the cheek and smiling conversations in a half-decent Thai restaurant in this shitty desert town where she calls home.
This is better.