The Drive

By this time two years ago I had known my mother was sick for 8 days. In that time I had tried to get used to the idea, though I don't know that I ever did before she left us. In those 8 days I had already made three trips to see her. Three times I had made the 400 mile trek there, spent as much time as I could, and returned home. I still had a job to do and we didn't know how this was going to turn out. Though I can say in the month long time she was sick I missed 18 days of work and was never penalized, nor was I charged an hour of vacation, PTO, or sick time, a gesture from Belfor I still appreciate to this day. But I digress. I remember this drive more than any other that month. Before I left Angel and I had told the boys about the situation. Probably the hardest conversation I have ever had, I answered the questions I could and promised to hug and kiss her for them. Then I was on the road.

My thoughts as I headed west were about the surgery that was to take place the next day. Her stomach was to be removed and a feeding tube inserted. If everything else looked semi-ok, an aggressive radiation and chemo program would start soon after Christmas. I claimed a Christmas miracle as I drove, believing in the best case scenario.

As we sat in the small hospital lobby, each of us seemed lost in our own world. We made small talk and exchanged newspapers and magazines. I was thinking of seeing her in recovery and being with my family as we discussed how we were going to help her beat it. After a couple of hours the surgeon appeared. As he spoke my eyes filled with tears. The cancer had masticised, into her lungs, enveloping her pancreas, onto the diaphram and aorta. Asking what it meant he replied its worst case. We need to start talking about quality of time rather than quantity. His words were soft and sympathetic and I hated them. And I hated him in that moment, as he had just told my family that my mother, my best friend was going to die. I turned my head to hide my tears, only to turn back and see their eyes full as well. The power of that moment overwhelmed me. I turned, hugged each one and, without a word, walked to my truck. I had planned to stay, see her when she woke up, and stay at her house that night. Instead, ten minutes after hearing the most devastating words that had ever crossed my ears, I was heading home. I didn't know why I was leaving. I only knew I couldn't stay.

I must have stopped 15 times on the way home. Sick to my stomach, I vomited every few minutes. I got home and Angel was still up when I arrived. We sat and talked before I headed to bed. I told her I couldn't remember any turn or lane change or detail of the physical drive home. But I could recall every thought and word spoken aloud I made in those 7 hours. It just seemed like I had been driving for weeks. I would return again 2 days later, and many more times before January 5. But only this drive do I remember so vividly. Because it was on this drive home that I first had the thought that I was going to have to say goodbye to my mother.

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