Monday, January 14, 2013

She Is a Ghost

Halloween was over, but November 1 was haunting. For three years I slept with a skeleton, just down the hall, whose features were familiar yet cold. I remember when flesh and blood hinted at a femininity I would later discover in myself. I remember when her voice was soothing and not forced. That skeleton sat idly by where I last left her as I made my way to school. The sugar-hype was fresh in my peers' systems, and I was just trying to survive the chaotic hallways and overdose of academia--then I saw him. He was short, awkward and lost. He was my brother.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I'm stalking you," he said with a glare; then my father turned and announced I was being checked-out early. What had I done?
"Your mother is in the hospital and I don't think she's going to make it," my father said.

My brother immediately reacted as I expected. When she was stronger--when she was more than the immobile tribute to motherhood just down the hall--she was the comforting soul that held him from infancy to these last few moments of childhood he would ever experience. For me, she was a friend, a fan, a force to be reckoned with and the only one to whom I would ever call "Mamma." I pleaded with God and squeezed my father's hand.

We made it to the hospital, and I was more observant there than I ever wished to be. The hallways at school were a different atmosphere; in the hospital, comas were not sugar-induced. The doctor pulled my father aside. Grey's Anatomy had prepared me for this. Her bones had ceased to lie as they once did. My younger brother--my sweet, innocent, baby brother--who screamed with delight 12 hours before--screamed at the top of his lungs when my father had to look us in the eye and tell us our mother was gone.

"Do you want to see her?" my aunt asked.

An odd question, I thought. Do I want to see my dead mother's body? No. But she would not have been much different from the skeleton I once knew, had I chosen to look.

We spent many nights filling the void on the right side of the bed for my father, and I spent many mornings holding him while he cried on the bathroom floor. His faith was shaken, and he was more fragile and afraid than I had ever known him to be. My rock--my protector--had weathered beneath the waves.

Six years later, I still remember her voice and the way she laughed. She lost so much of herself when she was diagnosed. There's a sense of pride and a terrible gut feeling I get whenever I am reminded of her. I love singing just as she did. I aspire to write full-time just as she had. And when I look in the mirror, my stomach churns. There she is, Mamma, staring back at me every day. She is a ghost that never leaves, and a haunting I'll never mind.

12 comments:

  1. So moving. I lost my dad to cancer 4 years ago and am currently working on a piece about it. You are inspiring to me. I love love your writing style. You are actually the only blog I follow. Thanks for this.

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    1. Thank you for that. That just made my day, actually.

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  2. Beautiful. Nothing else needs to be said.

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  3. Jenna, this is really beautiful. I love the way you word things (especially "The sugar-hype was fresh in my peers' systems, and I was just trying to survive the chaotic hallways and overdose of academia" and "My rock--my protector--had weathered beneath the waves). Fantastic.

    I hope the mirror-face is proud of your writing. I know I would be if you were my daughter.

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    1. Your comment seriously brightened my day. Thank you.

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  4. BessGewdFrann! Help me, I'm feeling!

    You're not supposed to do that. Don't make me use that onion metaphor we both love so much!

    But, God, your writing style is seriously wonderful; one of the best I've ever read. I don't know if I've ever told you that, but you amaze me with the more of your works that I'm exposed to. You've got a future for sure.

    And I also wanted to let you know that I'm sure--even more sure than my love for Tom Hiddleston, and that's pretty friggin sure--that your Mom would be proud of all that you've achieved thus far. (I mean, keeping me as a best friend. That's an achievement. Look at how many have that privilege. It's depressing, isn't it?) And Lynn would be proud of who you are. And maybe that's a bold statement to make, but I'm going by what I see, and who I see when I look at you is a strong, beautiful, courageous, and wickedly-hilarious woman (who don't need no man, mm-hmm--but who found a great one anyway, mm-hmm). But even those words are limiting to who you are and the pride in which your mother would view you, I'm sure.

    Thank you, Jennifer. For being my BessGewdFrann. For sticking by me when no one else would. For being there with me with my dad's own cancer scare and for Nana's passing. Thank you for being a constant light in my life (I mean, come on, my darkness had to be attracted to some kind of light, and all I see around me are a bunch of asshats). I. LOVE. YOU. But because life is frightening: ICH. LIEBE. DICH.

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    1. You just made me tear up in the office! I love you with all my heart.

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