By Fran Rizer
I lost my mom this week. No, she's not yet dead as I write this, but she's essentially comatose. I sit beside her for two reasons. First, if she should hear anything through her condition, I want her to hear my voice and my words of love. Second, I'm here because I want to be with her, whether she knows it or not.
Brutally, I actually lost her last week when she regressed to her childhood, crying because she couldn't find her shoes to be ready for school. She began seeing and talking to my deceased dad as well as her mother, grandparents, brothers and sisters, but only the ones who are dead. Throughout her illness and decline she's wanted me there with her. Last week, she refused to believe I'm her daughter...because, "My daughter is a beautiful baby with curly red hair." She's been in another world since then.
As I sit here in a recliner beside the hospital bed, laptop balanced on my knees, I think how every location of this journey--hospital, rehab center, intensive care units and now Hospice-assisted skilled nursing care unit were unknown worlds to us. My heart aches for the patients who've had no visitors before or after a few relatives who came in Easter afternoon carrying potted lillies. Since November, whatever facility we were in, Mama has had visitors daily in addition to me, my sons, and my grandson, who've been there every day.
I thought I might later write a short story that takes place in one of these other worlds that I've visited the past five months, but I don't really believe I'll write anything with a medical setting. Then I thought of the world my mom was in yesterday, the world of her childhood and later young motherhood when I was a "beautiful baby with curly red hair." Perhaps one day I'll write a story set in the world Mom's been in recently--nineteen thirties and forties.
When we write fiction, we create another world. Even if the setting is a real place, the effects of our characters' actions color that authentic place converting it to the fictional world of our plot. When I wrote the Callie Parrish series, I "created" a town near Beaufort, SC. My St. Mary, SC, is a small town with a few stores, a mortuary and only one pizza place, but fortunately it's a Domino's and delivers. When the first Callie was published, I'd checked that there is no St, Mary, SC, but I later learned that there is a St. Mary's in Georgia. I thought perhaps that explained the readers who enthusiastically told me, "I've been to St. Mary."
In the second Callie mystery, Callie and Jane go to a bluegrass festival on Surcie Island. There is NO Surcie Island off the coast of the United States! Surcie is an old Southern colloquilism for surprise, as in, "Were you good while Mommy went shopping? I'm glad because I brought you a surcie." The surcie was generally a piece of candy, and the sitter was delighted that she also received a surcie. As a child, I wanted to live on an island I created in my mind and named Surcie Island, an island version of Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, so I named Callie's island for one of my childhood imaginary worlds. In reality, the Surcie Island of the Callie books is a cross between Daufuskie of Robert Conrad fame, and South Carolina's Edisto Island thirty-five years ago before it was commercially developed. Yet. . .readers also tell me enthusiastically that they've been to Surcie Island.
My readers feel they've been to worlds I've created. As I sit here, I wish that I were able to be with my mother in the other worlds she's in these days. I wish I knew more about her childhood and more about when I was a baby, though I do know that as the first child as the first of nine children, I was pampered and spoiled by my parents, grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles. I also know from the relatives who've traveled far distances repeatedly to visit my mother, their sister, sister-in-law and aunt that my mom, the matriarch of the family is loved by many.
I've already used my emergency column and haven't had time to replace it, so today I'm sharing with you another world I never imagined, my mother's world as she seeks to move on to yet another world. I could have written about mothers today, perhaps even introduced you to my mother personally, but my heart can't do that right now. Instead, I'll close with a quotation from Sharon Doubiago:
My mother is a poem
I'll never be able to write;
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
Until we meet again. . . take care of YOU.