Three years ago, I spent September 24th like any other day. It didn't occur to me until days later, that September 24th had passed and I didn't think of it as having been my wedding anniversary. It took a few years of being divorced, but the date no longer held any special meaning.
It was a date that once held happy memories of not only the big event, but of vacations to celebrate subsequent anniversaries. I was surprised when meaning of the day evaporated. I spent the day as any ordinary day, I didn't even think about it once. I took it as a sign that I was finally at peace with the entire situation.
I have been wondering when, if ever, February 4th would become an ordinary day. Today, marks the fifth anniversary of my mom's death. I've never marked any of the 2/4 anniversaries with tears or depression. Even the first one. On the first anniversary, I headed to Disney World, which I think my mom would have liked. It wasn't a purposeful decision to get out of town, it just worked out that way with vacation planning.
I've not marked any anniversaries or holidays with tears, as one might expect. Missing a loved one is stranger than that, I don't often cry anymore, but when I do, it's set off by unpredictable things, like a moment on a television show. Monica Potter's plot line on the recent season of Parenthood was a trigger.
So, this year, I didn't cry either, but the day didn't pass unnoticed. Actually, the entire weekend didn't pass without me thinking about it. February 4th wasn't really the bad memory day, the second and third were the worst.
My mom fell into a semi coma on the second. She was talking to us in the hospital, up and fairly perky, we left for an hour to get dinner at Dinah's chicken (She said that she wished she could go with us) and she slipped. It was the last time I spoke to her. I spent the next sixty odd hours in the hospital with her, leaving once to shower and grab essentials.
I remember details of the room, including the springy cot in I dozed lightly, getting an hour here and there. The hospital staff was extremely nice and accommodating.
I remember discovering one of my favorite authors, Tom Perrotta and reading all his books in a weekend. I also read Laurie Nataro to keep laughing and reading sections of her books aloud to my mom, even though mom didn't respond.
I remember that when they had to amputate a toe from my mom's left food, a nurse wrote with a marker "This one" with an arrow pointing to the only toe that looked abnormal, it had turned a deep purple.
I remember a middle- aged male phlebotomist unable to find a good vein and shamelessly flirting with my aunt, who is much older and married, while my my mom was shallowly breathing. We actually had a good laugh when he left the room, as the situation was so utterly inappropriate.
I remember eating Numero Unos Pizza in the lobby. of the hospital, unable to finish a slice.
I remember walking by the main reception desk, which was run by a guy from my playwriting class that I had to drop to take care of my mom. We never acknowledged the connection.
I remember the view from her window, seeing the 2 freeway and enormous houses on the hill. I could also see the center where she had gone for radiation treatments, where we once saw a woman break down in convulsive sobs in the waiting room.
I remember when she died. I don't know how long she may have been dead, but I remember noticing that the rattling sounds were gone and I called the nurses station. I specifically remember saying "I think my mom's dead" and not wanting to touch her.
I remember waiting outside in the hallway, while the doctors and nurses removed all of the tubes from my mom.
I remember not wanting to see her body or to be in the room and asking Nancy to use the sheets to cover her. I rushed to grab my laptop and overnight bag to get out of there. without looking over at the bed.
I remember thinking that my mom wasn't there.
I remember feeling an overwhelming sensation of relief.
I remember driving home to Pasadena and how warm the sun felt during a morning rush hour drive.
I remember the phone immediately ringing when I walked through the door. It was a guy from organ donations. My mom's body was destroyed, but they could use her corneas. I remember the guy had a billion questions and I laughed, telling him how organized my mom was, as I found a binder that she had created with her entire medical History in detail. He said that he had never spoken with such a composed and organized family member. He asked me questions about her sexual history, those were not answerable or in the binder.
I remember Fanny coming over within an hour, we sat on my couch and ate yogurt with granola from Whole Foods. It was the only thing in my fridge.
I remember getting the best news, Fanny telling me that she was pregnant. I love all of my friend's kids, but this automatically made Rachel extra special in my heart.
I remember trying to finally sleep around noon and Julie calling me. She had called earlier and offered to leave work to be with me and was checking in. I have the best friends. I remember feeling so tired and not being able to sleep.
I remember finally crashing around four and sleeping until the next morning. I've never felt so exhausted in my entire life.
I guess that February 2nd, 3rd and 4th, might not be so easy to forget and that's probably a really good thing.