A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meet my mum

Originally, I started out writing this as a 9/11 memorial piece.  But it changed as I wrote it because I realized something: while I watched the news that day, I was mostly in shock.  I don't remember much about it at all.  I remember the aftermath, but I don't remember the events except by what people have talked about and the repeated use of the footage on the news over the next several days.

What I do remember best is this...

It was 2:30 AM on September 11, 2001.  I had a major break up with my fiance and was just barely crawling through the front door of my parents' house after a 16 hour Greyhound bus ride.  My dad had picked me up at the bus station after getting off of work at the rehab hospital where he was one of the housekeepers.  He was tired, I was tired, but more...I was emotionally drained.  I'd spent the day on the bus alternating between sleeping and very quietly crying, trying to read and write in between.  I wasn't pleasant company and I knew it.

I came into the house, expecting my mum to be in bed.  But she wasn't.  She was standing there in her short sleeved pale green nightgown with her old, worn out dark red shawl thrown over her shoulders.  She gave my dad a hug and a kiss, and told him to go take a shower.  Then she looked at me.  And then she held out her arms.

I completely lost what fragile self-control I'd cultivated all day.  I burst into tears and started crying on my mum's shoulder.  It sounds a little silly to me now.  I was 24 years old, and here I was acting like a lovesick teenager who'd just lost her first crush.  The truth was I hadn't had that many really close relationships with guys and having my heart ripped out by my ex-fiance really did a number on me.

My mum took me into the family room and held me while I cried.  I choked out everything that had been done, everything that had been said, and what to me was the worst betrayal ever - he'd been positively cheerful when he'd put me on the bus because he and two of our friends were going to go play video games at the big arcade in Seattle.

My mum just held me and let me vent.  She kept telling me that I was worth so much more and that he was just stupid and blind for not seeing what a catch he'd had.  This was a far cry from what I'd expected.  I'd expected to be told that I was better off without him, and that she'd been telling me from the start that he'd hurt me.  But she never once in all that time - or in the time since, up until her death 2 years later - "I told you so".  She simply let me live and love how I wanted to, and supported me however she could.

I was so tired I fell asleep on the hide-a-bed around 7:30 am.  At 8:30 am the phone rang and my older sister told my mum to turn on the news.  The phone had disturbed me, and the tv was in the family room so when mum turned it on it made it even worse.  I just wanted to sleep.  But then I heard mum say, "Oh my God.  What the f***?"  I'd never heard mum swear like that.  I pulled on my glasses (I'm pretty much blind without them) and looked up - in time to see one of the towers get hit.

I helped mum close up the hide-a-bed, and the two of us just sat there for a while staring at the tv.  We were watching everything and nothing was making sense.  Two of my friends lived in NJ and worked NYC.  I didn't know where they worked, what they were doing, what they were seeing, or if they were even alive.  But I couldn't move.  I didn't want to move.  My mum had her arm around my shoulders and I think we were both crying.

The phone rang and mum went to answer it.  There was a phone in the family room but I think she wanted to get away from the tv.  I couldn't move.  Then my mum came out with the cordless and told me to go take the call in the dining room.  It was my ex-fiance calling, absolutely frantic to make sure I was still alive.  Sea-Tac was closed and the buses were shut down.  He didn't know if I'd made it home or not.  I told him I was ok, and we spent a couple hours talking.  I got him off the phone only to get a call from one of my NYC friends.  Kim wanted to know if I'd heard from Nick, our other friend.  I told her no and wanted to know where she was.  She was vacationing in TX with her husband and their newborn daughter.

Nick called me an hour later.  He was in CA with his parents, helping with his grandmother's funeral.  I found out later if he'd been in NY he'd have died in the Towers because that's where his company's office was.  I don't remember what company he worked for.  I don't think he wants to remember because he lost a lot of friends/co-workers that day.

Through everything, my mum was right there - encouraging me to talk to my ex-fiance, having me check in with everyone I knew to make sure no one had friends/family still in NY, etc.  She only made me give up the phone when my dad needed to call my aunt to make sure my cousin wasn't in D.C. at the Pentagon - which is where he'd been planning on going.  He was still in OR.  My friend Delilah was back in Japan.  But my ex-fiance's best friend was a MP at the Pentagon.

To our extreme relief and gratitude, he was actually driving back to WA to pay a surprise visit on his parents.  He'd gotten leave on the morning of the 10th, and left at 5 AM on the 11th.  Later, my ex-fiance (who I am now happily married to, strangely enough) called me back and my mum let us talk for hours.

My mum died on September 13, 2003 - 2 years after I came home about ready to throw myself off of a cliff because of being rejected by the guy I loved.  My mum went from diagnosis with Stage 4 stomach cancer to death in three weeks.  During that time, we were still talking about what we were going to do together in the future because neither of us wanted to admit the fact that there wasn't going to be a future for us - not for me and my mum.

Before she died, I wrote a short story that expressed how I felt.  It was the last of my writing projects my mum ever saw.  By the time I wrote it, she wasn't really able to read for very long.  So I read it to her.

Here's the story

My mum told me it was beautiful, and I think that it was the first time that the two of us actually admitted that everything we'd planned was never going to be accomplished.  Not with us being together, at least.

To this day, my strongest memory of mum is her standing there in her worn out nightgown with her faded shawl over her shoulders, holding her arms out to me to welcome me home in spite of all that had happened between us in the past.

My mum wasn't a casualty of 9/11, but it's to her that my thoughts turn today.  Because of her, I'm alive. Because of her, I found hope.  My mum was a writer who never got published.  She had an amazing gift and was in the process of trying to find an agent when she got sick.  We didn't know about that until I went through her box of dot matrix documents that form the bulk of her manuscript.  There were notes about editing in there that mum planned on doing but never got the chance to do.  There were also two rejection letters in there letting her know that she needed to find an agent to solicit the publishers on her behalf.

One of these days, I plan on publishing my mum's books.  It's going to have to wait until I'm published myself, and I'll have to make sure my dad signs the legal paperwork signing the documents over to me.  But my mum's stories will be printed and published properly - something my mum should've been able to live to see.

So, to those of you remembering 9/11 today - please keep on doing so.  Remember the sacrifices of those brave souls who gave their lives to save others.  I'll go on remembering my mum, who went out of her way to keep me alive after I hit one of the lowest points in my life.

Love you, mum.  I won't ever forget.

1 comment:

  1. A touching, loving tribute to your mother. A sweet glimpse into your life, and the pain that we can all relate to on some level. Thank you for sharing.

    Good luck in your writing endeavors, and in finding a home for her book, as well. You are a good daughter.

    I plan to read your story later.