My mom has her first surgery two days after her MRI. I begged and pleaded to be there in the waiting room but was turned away by my stepfather with a controlling hell no every time. Nothing upset me more than knowing that I was NOT ALLOWED to be by my mother’s side. I bit my tongue. I wasn’t going to be a selfish asshole and make the situation worse so I let my friends know what was going on and my stepbrother and longtime friend came over to spend the day with me and my newborn baby for the 8 hour procedure.
Biting my nails and cuticles until there was nothing left, I anxiously paced back and forth all day. I welcomed the distraction of my daughter and having friends to keep my mind busy but the entire time I stared at my phone waiting to hear something, anything.
Finally I got a call. She was out of surgery and I could talk to her when she woke up. “Everything went well” was all the information I got. What the hell does that even mean?
I strapped on my baby Bjorn, grabbed my husband and babe and we went to see my mom the next night. She was in a neurology recovery wing sharing a room with an addict who screamed and threw things the entire time. She was miserable, hardly got any sleep with a headache like no other. 31 staples in her head and the lemon-sized tumor was removed. Doctors assured her that this was “the type of brain tumor you want to have” and that this was a one-time thing. Life would go back to the way it was once she healed.
A follow up MRI said otherwise. The tumor came back and brought friends. They were growing in groups now and needed to be slowed down or removed. On to planning surgery number two.
Recently I was asked how my mom is doing. It’s always a really hard question to answer because I don’t really have an answer other than “she’s still truckin!”, or something lame like that. All so I can avoid the conversation altogether because it’s torturous.
So how is she?
I have been fortunate to complete graduate school and learn how to accept my new mother and mourn the loss of the mom I used to have. Answering this question honestly kills me inside every time I have to speak about (thus validating) this loss. And every time I get the same response “that must be hard”.
Let’s talk about hard. This is what has been really really hard-Difficult, borderline impossible and soul crushing all at the same time.
My mom has completely changed after seven surgeries. She now struggles using a smartphone. We used to text and talk on the phone all day. She knew everything about my life, she was my best friend. If I had a question about anything at all my mom was the first person I knew I could go to.
But now her texts are mostly a jumble of letters, intended to communicate a message that I can barely understand. She sometimes sends them more than once, maybe three or four times. Or more. When she calls and I don’t answer, I find missed call after call until she’s calling while I’m checking my phone. When I return her call it’s for nothing, or she doesn’t remember why. And her voice is not hers anymore. Each surgery and breathing tube took it from her, little by little. What was once something I took for granted is gone. I hear her raspy, slurred language when she calls and it’s a constant reminder that she’s different. She’s not the same anymore.
There was one day when her voice came back-just for a day though. I was so happy I was yelling to her “MOM! YOUR VOICE CAME BACK!”
She hadn’t even realized it changed. But I did. And still do.