As many of you already know, my mom's in the hospital with pneumonia and a low oxygen/hemoglobin count. Since they gave her blood, the hemoglobin seems to be a lot better but the oxygen count is still around eighty and the pneumonia is still gurgling away in her lungs. I had a rage meltdown, of which I wrote about in my last post. Yesterday at work, I simply freaked out at the end of my shift and they let me leave half an hour early. I burst into embarrassed, furious and heartsick tears as soon as I hit the pavement outside and began to walk home.
A series of events compiled to get me to this state, most but not all of them associated with my mom hovering at death's door yet again. She's a "tough old bird," as my boyfriend and daughter say, and I agree. Mom has been dangerously ill so many times, the doctors shake their heads over the fact that she's still breathing. I always tell people we get sick but we're impossible to kill. But she's suffering and I certainly don't want anybody to suffer needlessly like that.
The most unexpected thing that happened after I heard the news of her hospitalization was my brother Frank calling me. I haven't spoken to him in over a year and a half. I'd never given him my number; he got it off Mom's phone the last time he visited her. He also got a current photo of me from her room. That's what he wanted to talk about. After starting the conversation saying he "didn't want to call Mom in case she croaked on the fucking phone" while he spoke to her, he launched right into how great I look now. This is the brother I am almost certain molested me with his high school buddies when I was nine. The traumatic amnesia, which I've worked years on to break through, is still patchy. Last time I saw Frank, I was a comfortable and safe-feeling butterball. Frank is repulsed by heavy women. I've lost a lot of weight since then. He wanted to know how much I'd lost, am I dating anybody, made a comment about how attractive I am, and started to reminisce about one of the old gang banger pals. I mumbled something about books to get him off the subject of my sexy new bod (shudder) and we hung up half an hour later. Afterward, I beat myself up for speaking to him at all, for not yelling at him, for a hundred and one things I shoulda coulda woulda done if I wasn't such an insecure wretch. I felt dirty, cowardly, repulsive and weak. My insecurity addiction reared up and started gnawing on me. I immediately began damage control, trying to ward off the tsunami of self hatred and disgust that was drowning me. That's why I lost it at work. That's why I started bawling the moment I hit fresh air and sunshine.
Moments of beauty happen at such times. One usually doesn't notice because every thing's blurry with tears and burbling misery, but they do happen, whether we notice them or not. I was completely wrapped up in death scenarios involving my mom and almost missed this one. But a drift of scent hit me and I looked up, startled out of myself. Directly in front of me stood a fence, running the length of a manicured lawn and almost groaning with the weight of dozens of roses. It was windy, and the blooms were bobbing and grinning in the breeze, soaking up the sunshine and almost smug in their beauty. In spite of my stubborn determination to hang onto my despondency, the sight and scent of those roses was soothing. I wandered over to one huge bush, resplendent in girly pink, and buried my nose in a blossom. A dusting of pollen stuck, and I grinned as it tickled. It was a flirty, fragrant moment. I started to walk away, still sad but grateful for such a lovely distraction.
"Would you like some roses?"
It was a woman's voice, carried on the wind, and I turned around. A lady had come out of the house and was grinning at me. "Oh, no, no, thank you," I said. "They're all so beautiful." A rather inane comment but sincere, and I waved at her gorgeous flowers.
"Let me cut you some roses," she said, insistent. "I see you walking and you always stop to look. That one was planted by my mother fourteen years ago. She died eight years ago, and every time it blooms, I see her smile. She'd like you to have some roses. I'm going to cut some for you." And she hurried back inside.
I stood there gawking, looking at the biggest rose bush nodding at me, its leaves and scent holding me captive as much as the words of the kind stranger who wanted to share. She came out with a big sheet of aluminum foil, wet paper towels and a pair of scissors. She cut a bouquet that laid like an infant in the crook of my arm, nestled in damp towel and shiny foil backdrop. I stood there mute, struggling with tears of a different sort, and watched as she walked over and cut one perfect white peony to lay on top of the pink splendor. "There," she said, satisfied. "You have made my day."
I had made her day.
I thanked her and turned away, staring at the bouquet of her mother's flowers, crying all over them as I walked. The teardrops ran down into the nautilus shell centers and I just started to laugh. It was overwhelming, this unbelievable gift at such an unbelievable moment, from an unbelievable woman whose name I didn't even know. Sure, there's shit and terrible things in the world; ugly things that cast greasy shadows, worming their black-mold destruction down deep, where we think it can never be cleaned out. That shit blinds us to anything good. It lies to us that there is nothing else in our existence but it. Anywhere. And it lies very convincingly. I've believed that fucker for decades. But if you step outside of yourself and let a drift of petals come your way, or a ray of sunshine, or an unexpected smile, you can begin to see the truth. The truth that there are people like the rose cutter all over, that there are gem like moments that sparkle and sweep away shadows, and that they are happening far more than the gloppy black stuff. Scrape the crusty scum of a lifetime off your glasses and you'll begin to see clearly. Life is beautiful, even in the midst of chaos and horror. Hang in there, work on your emotional eyesight, and enjoy the soft warmth of goodness when you finally see it. There's a whole world of it out there, just waiting to be noticed. Good luck, fair weather, and all the best in the world to you, my friends. Take care.