End of the Road

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY TERRY ALLEN WIL­LIAMS Terry Allen Wil­liams is a Fort My­ers writer, pho­tog­ra­pher and trav­eler. This piece is ex­cerpted from his working novel A Year in the Death of His Mother.

Af­ter leav­ing the hospice, he drove the short dis­tance back to the hos­pi­tal and parked in the lot. Although the sun was al­ready set­ting, it was still very hot and hu­mid. He was in some­thing of a daze. Rid­ing the el­e­va­tor back to his mother’s floor, he re­mem­bered what the doc­tor had said about her get­ting back to her base­line, and then how the hospice rep­re­sen­ta­tive had been so neg­a­tive about her chances. His mother had al­ways bounced back, he thought; she will bounce back again.

The el­e­va­tor doors opened and a pretty blonde nurse walked to the cor­ner of the el­e­va­tor. He looked at her but she didn’t re­turn his gaze. She was look­ing at her smart­phone. And then the el­e­va­tor doors shut.

His mother was dy­ing and pretty women no longer looked at him. He had be­come invisible. What was the point of it all, he thought, look­ing for his mother’s room. He found her still hooked up to the ma­chines and sleep­ing. He stared at her for a while. This is it, he thought. She is still alive, but she doesn’t have much longer. He re­fused to be­lieve that it was over. She is such a fighter, he thought. He con­tin­ued to stand there and just look at her for quite some time. They wouldn’t dis­charge her from the hos­pi­tal if they thought she was in dan­ger, would they? That didn’t make any sense. None of this made any sense.

He would have gone over to her side and held his mother’s hand, but he knew that was some­thing she was not re­quest­ing. They had never been very close in a phys­i­cal way. He would hug her from time to time, but she was very re­strained and never ex­pressed phys­i­cal af­fec­tion to­ward him. That kind of dis­tance came from her mother, his grand­mother, who was very Bri­tish and very stiff up­per-lipped. His mother had the qual­ity of never want­ing to show any weak­ness in front of her chil­dren, and par­tic­u­larly in front of him, her only son.

He re­mem­bered when their lit­tle poo­dle had died and how he had broken down and wept, that she had re­mained stoic and tear­less. She was much tougher, he thought, than he was. He glanced at her again and could see her lips mouthing slightly as she breathed. It was all about breath­ing at this point. By def­i­ni­tion, she was still alive.

He had liked the phys­i­cal place, the hospice, like a re­sort for sick peo­ple. And the nurses were very at­trac­tive and seemed pro­fes­sional and very on top of their game. As he lay in the re­cliner and thought on th­ese things, the brunette hos­pi­tal nurse came in and smiled at him. “She has been sleep­ing since you left,” she said. “I sup­pose that is a good thing,” he said. “Oh, yes, the rest is good for her.” “Do you think she will bounce back?" he asked. “… I don’t see why not.” He could hear the hes­i­ta­tion. “The doc­tor said he ex­pected her re­turn to base­line,” he said. “She is a tough old bird,” she said, as she checked his mother’s vi­tals and made sure she was still prop­erly con­nected to her tubes. “Are you go­ing to spend the night,” she asked. “What do you think,” he said. “She should be fine. If you want to go home and get some sleep, we will let you know if any­thing hap­pens.”

He watched the young nurse as she moved about the room. Her move­ments were clean and pre­cise and she knew ex­actly what she was do­ing. It ex­cited him to watch her. At the same

time, the help­less body of his mother in the bed, as she lay there, frozen by her im­mo­bil­ity, shook him to the core. He could not save her. He was help­less to do any­thing for her. He was caught be­tween th­ese two ex­tremes: the lively vi­brant young nurse, and the im­mo­bile body of his mother. He al­most wished she would just let go, and move on. He hated to see her suf­fer­ing like this. There had been so much suf­fer­ing the last few years.

Be­fore she left the room the nurse stopped and smiled.

“Is there any­thing I can do for you?" she asked. He just smiled back at her and cast his eyes down­ward.

“No, that’s all right. Thanks. Just say a prayer for me and my mom, if you would.”

“I will for sure,” she said, and danced out of the room, tak­ing her youth and her beauty with her.


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