Sunday, November 6, 2016

Daylight Saving

My son and my mother the year before she died

I have been thinking about my mother. Maybe it's because daylight savings time gives us an extra hour today. This was the time of year when my mom always turned her thoughts to "going home" to warmer climes, to St. Lucia, where she last lived with my dad, or to Jamaica, to my brother. The cold weather made her bones ache. The early darkness made her lonely.

I am remembering how every evening while she was here in the city with me, I would go over to her studio treehouse across the courtyard. I'd bring or fix her dinner, sit with her as she ate, wash up, watch some TV with her, or maybe we'd just sit around the dining table chatting, and then I'd help her bathe and get ready for bed. I'd tuck her in,  perch on the edge of the bed as she said her nightly prayers, and then I'd kiss her cool forehead and take my leave. I always felt guilty as I left. She looked small and helpless in the bed, and I imagined her needing someone in the night and finding no one there. 

She liked having her own place where she could set things out as she pleased. She was still able to move around by herself then, but slowly. She was already stooped and frail. I told myself that the phone was on the nightstand, within easy reach. And I was one building away. Still. I felt the weight of making sure she was okay, that she had everything she needed, including the woman who came in three mornings a week to clean and do laundry and give her lunch. Breakfast she made herself, the same thing every morning: Oatmeal with bran and a cut up banana, a slice of toast with the thinnest smear of butter, and ginger tea. Then, for most of the day, she'd sit in her recliner and wait for me to come home from work.

I confess that some nights I didn't want to go over. I'd come home exhausted and want to just climb into bed, but even then, I knew the day would come when I'd wish for just one more night of being able to take care of her, to feel her thin arms around my neck as I said good night, to bask for one moment more in her gaze of love. 


My son came home from work last night and flopped down on the couch. He wasn't very talkative and I made myself not ask how was his day. He was waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. The two of them were going out to dinner to celebrate their year and a half of being together. After she came in, and greetings were made all around, my son said, "I got in the middle of a fight today." We all gasped, which was the desired response I'm sure, and now we were ready to hang on his every word. He started telling us all about this one call they got for an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) who was hopped up on synthetic marijuana, also called K2, which is apparently a nightmarish high, and not fun for EMTs having to deal with a person crashing on it. The man was angry and violent when they arrived. He started a verbal altercation with a passerby, who was also high on something, and suddenly my son and his partner found themselves in the middle trying to calm things down. They radioed dispatch to send a cop car. 

By the time the cops arrived, the man's mood had transitioned and he was curled up on the ground, crying that he wanted his daddy. My son talked him into the ambulance at that point, and strapped him in for the ride to the ER. The cop asked if he should ride with them, which is apparently protocol on such calls. My son almost told him they'd be fine, he could go, because the patient seemed calm now, but something made him say, "Sure, hop in." He was happy he did because on the fifteen minute ride to the hospital the man rapid cycled through moods, bashing his head against the ambulance wall and kicking and flailing and yelling. The suddenly, he was weeping, and thanking the guys for helping him, then he was pissing himself, then angrily flailing at them again. My son was glad he had help in restraining him from injuring himself. 

I'm thinking I'll get way more information about my son's day if I happen to be in the room when he's telling his girlfriend about it. I'm also thinking about how that man was huddled on the street, high on K2 and crying for his daddy.


  1. Once again, my love, you have brought tears to my eyes.
    Oh, but your son is going to start getting his real education now, isn't he? Because it's life that teaches us. Caring for and about other humans, mostly.
    But then again, he's always had you and his daddy for teachers.
    I just love you.

  2. Oh, Angella. You have described so well the feelings I had during my father's long years in the nursing home. About the only things that kept me from going were snow or my own illness. It was a long grind, but the sweetest of rewards - the love we had for each other and the peace of knowing I had done my best. Your mother was so lucky to have you - and you, her. May your memories be sweeter than they are sad.

    So perceptive of you to realize how to access your son's thoughts. Hard on you to wait, but he will appreciate not being asked, and sharing when he's ready.

  3. Your son has become a lifeguard over the sea of troubles that is the human condition. I've read about people collapsed in the streets of NYC on that drug. It is amazing anyone takes it. But what is more amazing is that incredible photograph, so beautiful, iconic and other-worldly. And prescient.

  4. So many feelings... I'm glad your son said, "Sure, hop in." I'm glad you had those days with your mother despite the hardships. Hugs and sighs <3

  5. Your writing about your mother is always so sweet, sad and beautiful...and both of you were so lucky to have had one another in this life. I still wrestle at coming to terms with my mother and our complicated relationship. As for your son, he will certainly see and learn a lot though he seems wise beyond his years. Best to all of you.

  6. Heartbreaking. I'm glad there are people like your son in the world, calm and strong enough to weather the rest of us who tend to cycle through moods in our own way.

    As for your mom, what you've described is really what it is to be a daughter. On one hand aching for independence, even in adulthood. But you recognize the tether to your mother, especially as they grow old and turn gossamer. How lucky she was to have a daughter like you, and how beautifully you've written about her days. I can smell the ginger tea and feel the comfortable, lonesome quiet. My grandmother lived in the Caribbean as well and I wonder how she felt during the cold Ohio winters. She never, ever complained about them! I think I would.

  7. I know this is a simplistic response to your story, but WHY does anyone take drugs? I just don't get it. Especially some scary synthetic chemical. It's a good thing your son obeyed his instincts and had the cop come along in the ambulance.

  8. Wow. Sublime writing as always. I can see your mother and feel honored that I got to "know" her here before her transition. Your boy has become a man. I'm happy I am getting to see that, too.