The Rogue Speaks:
Trying to cut Mum’s hair is like trying to hit a moving target, but I do the best I can under the circumstances, and after it is washed, it actually doesn’t look too bad! I had wanted to have it cut by a professional, but the trip to the beauty salon would have taken too much out of her. The hair cut passed Meta’s approval, so that’s good enough for me.
Rod and I took a couple of hours to visit my sister-out-law. Meta stood guard, and we assured her we would be home before she had to leave.. My sister-out-law had called my sister’s husband to ask him to join us, but he was teaching a class at the university.
He called me a couple of days later, and we made plans to meet for lunch. We had emailed back and forth and he wanted to let me know that whatever went on between me and my sister had no adverse effects on our relationship. He just wanted to know both sides of the story, and I was more than happy to comply.
We met him and his girlfriend for lunch at a restaurant not too far from Mum’s home. I think that we were both apprehensive about the meeting, but between Rod and my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, the meeting went exceptionally well. We had already had extensive emails concerning my relationship with my sister, and agreed unequivocally that my break had been the smartest thing I could have done. His life with her had been stressful at best, and now that she was gone, he could finally relax and look forward to the rest of his life. He had loved her, and was committed to their life together, but it had not been easy. My family was never easy.
Rod’s sister had called us one morning eight years ago to tell us that Mum was in the hospital, and the outlook was grim. We literally threw clothes in the car, and drove non-stop to New Orleans, where one of our daughters lived, took a few hours for some much-needed sleep, and then continued on to Atlanta. By the time we arrived, Mum had rallied. We were in her hospital room when my younger brother, Bill, called from Knoxville to say that we had better get up there post-haste because my mother, who was also in the hospital, was dying. Rod drove me to Knoxville, and then turned around and drove back to Atlanta to stay in the hospital with his mom.
My younger brother had called my sister, who was vacationing in NYC, to tell her that Mother was dying. She informed him that she had already said her good-byes. Then he told her that I was on my way to Knoxville. That was all it took to get her on the next plane to Knoxville. I knew nothing of his call to her, and was surprised to learn that she, as well as my other brother, were on their way. God forbid that I should be there without them if she died.
My mother was the expert at little white lies, and she taught my younger brother well. When I got there, he told me that Mother had been asking for me, and had told him that she had dreamed that I had come and stayed with her all night long. It was such a blatant lie, because at that point the woman could not even string two words together. Whatever! I did my duty, and told him to go home and get some sleep, that I would keep watch during the night.
I amaze myself at my lack of emotion during that night. I had come there to fulfill a responsibility, and that was the extent of it. Sometime during the early morning hours, before there was any light in the sky, my sister stormed in, and that was the end of any peace I might have had. She began to rage, and I left, finding an empty hospital bed in which to catch a few hours of sleep.
The following morning we were told that my mother’s kidneys were shutting down. The decision was made to move her back to my brother’s home, where she had been living since selling the house in Atlanta. I rode in the cab of the ambulance, and my sister was furious when the driver told her she could not ride in the back with her dying mother.
A bed had been set up in the living room, facing the picture windows that looked out over hills and woods. Hospice had been contacted, and we were waiting for them to come and go over the process with us. When they arrived, they asked if we could meet in the living room because it was important to not leave Mother out of the conversation, even though she was by this time in a coma. While the hospice nurse was speaking, I glanced occasionally at Mother, checking to be sure that she was still breathing. It had been decided by my siblings that I was to be in charge of the morphine, because they just could not give it to her. I didn’t understand this at the time, but it later came to me, and I was shocked by what they were thinking that I could do. They just didn’t know me at all.
At one point, I glanced at my mother and knew that she was dead. I motioned to the hospice nurse who came to the side of the bed and confirmed her passing. Then the tears began. Not mine, but my sister’s. There were still things to be done, and since they had put me in charge, I had to fulfill my last responsibilities to my mother. The nurse called the mortuary, and collected the unused morphine from me and poured it down the toilet.
Then she left.
I did not cry—could not cry, so I left the tears to my siblings and my three nieces. I called Rod, who had driven me to Knoxville and had immediately turned around to drive back to Atlanta to be with his own mother, who had rallied, but was still quite ill. It would take him four hours to get back to my brother’s house. In the meantime I waited for the mortuary hearse to arrive and take my mother’s body away. They had to be called twice before someone finally arrived almost 3 hours later. I took my mother’s feet and helped the attendant move her body onto the gurney.
Rod arrived just as we were preparing to eat dinner. He was exhausted from all the driving we had done over the past couple of days, and my head was splitting open from lack of sleep, so after we ate, I told my brother that we just had to get some sleep, and asked where we should bed down. He took us to my mother’s room, and we bid him goodnight.
About 45 minutes later there erupted a blood-curdling scream, followed by more screaming. I could tell it belonged to my sister. I pulled an extra pillow over my head, and tried to get back to sleep. I later learned just what she was screaming at the top of her lungs—“I DON’T WANT HER SLEEPING IN MY MOTHER’S BED!” –an unfortunate incident, made even more shocking by the fact that one of my brother’s friends was there, having dropped by to give his condolences. The woman had no boundaries.
The next morning, my siblings and I sat at the dining room table to discuss the plans for the funeral. My sister quickly took charge, ignoring any suggestions I made, so after a short while, I excused myself and left, back to Atlanta with Rod, to the safety of Mum’s house.
The funeral, rather “funerals,” took place over a two day period, my sister having orchestrated both, right down to the video tape she had insisted upon. As usual, it was all drama, drama, drama. After the reception in the dining room of the church, my sister came over to me and said, “We’ll see you back at our house.”
I had decided that this was just not going to happen. I had exposed myself far too long to her hatred for me. “We’re going home,” I said calmly, “back to Arizona.” And then we left, this time for good.