I believe that I will always love to sleep with my mom. I was twelve years old when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I thought she was at class. She was taking night courses at a local, community college in an attempt to get a promotion in a school district well known for its nepotism, but my mom was a fighter. In those few hours my mom was gone, I took advantage of the opportunities an irresponsible and mostly absentee father presented: little conversation, junk food, and brain-rotting television. The time I spent chowing down my beloved ramen and chocolate ice cream were the last moments of my innocence.
My mom walked through the door as Judge Judy’s verdict was interrupted by a commercial break. You could always tell when she entered a room because she would subconsciously twist her arm, and her bracelets would collide, creating a soft clink of metal with each threshold she crossed. I turned from my warm spot on the couch , excited to see my mom but too close to being a teenager to let her know. She sat down beside me as cautiously as if the wood floor was collapsing beneath her feet, shattering into bits. I did not know it was, until she told me.
“ Today, I had a check up….They found a lump in my breast…I have cancer.”
I only remember heat rising in my throat and my eyes burning. Those three sentences repeated over and over. I could almost see the words inside my head as I burrowed into my mother’s breast, tears staining her long sleeved, pink shirt. We spent the night on that ugly flowered, yellow couch, enveloped in each others arms, with my little sister between us. I never grew out of that phase where I loved sleeping with my mom, drawing comfort from her sleeping body and cuddling into her soft form.
Not long after that watershed night, my initiation to hell/cancer treatment began. My mom’s beautiful blonde hair released itself in clumps throughout the following month. It started with a couple of strands on her back that appeared to have been combed out, along with knots. Then, when she would brush her hair, so much of it would disappear that you would swear she should have been bald by the time she finished. It came out so easily. I hugged her and as I pulled away, a handful of her sun-streaked locks followed me. I could not allow her to see it and to watch her cry again, but she must have noticed the fright I tried so hard to conceal because the next afternoon she was sporting a less time-consuming, “sporty” look. For me, the baldness was the easiest part of cancer to adjust to, as the physical sickness took its toll on me . I lost many newly made friends as I gave up weekends at the mall to follow my mother with a mop. I hated her sometimes for this, but I could never walk away from her after chemotherapy. Long, brutal nights would be spent removing and replacing blankets, retrieving water and medication, and aiding my mom in reaching the bathroom. Although family friends would stay over the initial night of chemo, its effects lasted several nights afterward, and I would always end up in my mother’s room: either in the bed with her or on her floor.
Over the next few years, I endured all the detriment cancer can do to its host’s loved ones. I observed my mom physically deteriorate and slowly become emotionally exhausted, which was quite a feat considering she was one of the most determined people I have ever known. She never missed a protest for non-violence, sure that if she tried hard enough, nuclear missiles may actually disappear. She voted for Nader, a lost yet righteous cause, which I would always remind her was a wasted vote. Synchronizing with the failures of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the hardest part was watching her spirit slowly dim, her embarrassing protests and obnoxious singing becoming less and less frequent.
In the second semester of freshman year, I came home to find my mother’s bed, which she had been confined to for the past few months, empty. I screamed her name with such hysteria, I was surprised the entire state did not hear “Beverly!” echo across it. I yelled and dialed her number, but I knew where she was and within a few hours Lynne, one of my mom’s best friends, confirmed my fears as we rode in silence to Baptist Hospital. There I learned my mom’s fate. Suddenly, she had a week – at most- to live; the doctors would be amazed if she survived the night.
How could this happen? She was so young, and she had two children! How could she leave us?! I was furious. Blinded by anger and fear, I acknowledged her death more as her cruelty than her disease’s. She was tired and upset, but I needed answers. That evening, I went to her room wrapped in a blanket that was more to counter adrenaline than the icy hospital. The confrontation turned into tears of love, forgiveness, and letting go. Despite her discomfort, she permitted me to crawl into her hospital bed and I curled against her, inhaling the scent of her skin and feeing its softness. However, that was the best night I will ever spend with anyone. I will cherish that one night more than the first night I will spend making love, my wedding night, the night my child is born, and all other nights deemed as crucially important. I believe that spending countless nights, as well as that single night, with my mom will be treasured in my heart forever.
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