What I Did Over Summer Vacation

Not a lot, honestly.

That’s not true—just not what I had in mind to do. I had great plans for a sabbatical project and some travel and a last hurrah of a summer before my institution converts from a quarter system to a semester system next year, and we go back to school in mid-August, rather than late September.

I did do some writing. I did do some reading. But everything else went haywire.
My mother passed away in April. It was a long time coming, and I expected it, I think, every day for the last six years or so, except the day it happened. I have been dreading phone calls for years, especially from anything looking medical, but for some reason, this time when I picked up the phone, it was the farthest thing from my mind. I actually was thinking, “Oh, it must be time for a quarterly review.”
“Hello, Ms. Baker. This is ______.  I’m calling to inform you of your mother’s death.”
First of all, who says that? Shouldn’t she ask me to sit down, or say she has some bad news? Eesh. I did sit down. Abruptly. The breath I let out was a sigh and a moan and a balloon fluttering around in my chest.
No. Not now. Not like this. When my father passed away, I was a thousand miles away, and I got the call that if I wanted to say goodbye, I should come right down. I couldn’t, of course, but they tried. Where was that call this time, when I was twenty minutes away?
This time it was over in a moment. Years of anguish, as she battled Paranoid Schizophrenia, winning some days–losing ground, most days. After years in her convalescent hospital, after more than a year on hospice, and after being completely blind and not particularly noticing, she had only clothes and a few stuffed animals in her possession. I donated them to the convalescent hospital. They didn’t even need me to come down.
All there was left to do was wait for the death certificates and the cremains, both of which would be mailed. “Thank you. Have a nice day. Very sorry for your loss.”

I have been responsible for my parents for the last ten years. Dad had dementia and passed away a year and a half before Mom. Because I had been mourning them for so long, I thought it wouldn’t hit me so hard. It didn’t hit. It sucked.
It sucked the life out of me–all my energy, all my emotion. I couldn’t think or feel or cry or yell. I watched more tv this summer than I have in the last ten years. And those things I said I’d do—I forgot what they were. All my plans involved thinking, and I just didn’t have thinking in me.
I read novels. I watched Netflix. I filled my head with other stories, until I was ready to tell my own. I’m ready now. And being ready to tell my story means I’m ready to work again. I’m ready for the fall quarter. I’m a chapter away from that book being done. I’m taking a fiction writing workshop and looking for an agent.
There are stories to be told about my mom now, and I’ve started spinning some out for my kids. That will continue, now that it makes my heart swell, rather than deflates me, to talk about her, now that she is an exhalation, a soul free in the ether. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Life flows on.

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