By Myles MacIntyre
“Why didn’t you care?”
“I did. I just had no other choice.”
“Sure you did. You had a lot chances to do the right thing, to set him straight. But, you never did. Instead, you watched him destroy me. Why?”
She blew her nose into her used Kleenex and looked at me. She was cornered, with nothing left but a soggy hanky clutched in her anemic hands.
“It wasn’t easy...”
“Don’t start this shit. This isn’t about you. We’re talking about me, here.”
She bit her lip and sighed. “Your father was a monster. I don’t need to remind you of that—he always was a bastard. But, I did the best I could, and I know my best wasn’t good enough.”
“You’re damn right about that. Because of your actions, I missed out on actually knowing you. We could’ve had a real relationship, but instead you focused on what I did wrong. You wanted me to fail. Let’s face it, you didn’t a give shit.”
She sighed heavily. I felt my rage subside into shame.
We hadn’t spoken since she got the results of the biopsy, six months ago.
I shook my head. “Fuck it. It doesn’t matter now, anyway… so, how have you been?” Her bloodshot eyes were burnt out from the argument—I’m not known to let things go. “I’m fine, you?”
“That’s bullshit and we both know it. How have the treatments been going?”
She looked down “I stopped going.”
I clenched my fists. “Why would you stop?”
“Because, I’ve had enough.”
“Had enough of what, exactly?”
“I’ve had enough of life. What am I hanging on for?”
She nervously fumbled with her tissue.
“Weren’t you the one always going on about how you wanted to see the world after you retired?”
“That was back when I had strength and ambition. I’ve just had enough. I don’t expect you to understand.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand. I fought for months when I had cancer and still managed to graduate. Do you think I’d be standing here if I just gave up?”
Her eyes shifted away from mine.
“Shut up! My mind is made up. I’ve finished my will, and I haven’t been to the hospital since. ”
“How could you not think to consult me on this?”
She held out her palm, her fingers extended like knives. She began numbering off her reasons. “Because it’s my life. My decision. My death. My moment—I’m not asking you to like it, but at least deal with the fact that it is my breast, and my body.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My mother had always been a stubborn, bullish woman. But I never thought anything, even cancer, could extinguish her spark.
Her entire form had gone under such a drastic change since I last saw her. Her cheeks were hollow and her eyes, listless. Her skin matched the blank walls of her bedroom. The crimson bed sheets didn’t really help either. Her soul looked desperate to escape from the crumbling urn of her body.
As I stood in silence, before the ghostly woman who gave birth to me, I could hear the ticking of the old grandfather clock outside her bedroom door. Tick, tock, tick, tock. I was aghast that such a strong woman was reduced to being so brittle.
I grew up in a house where I was her servant. I tried running away many times, only to return a few days later. I wasn’t able to make it on my own.
Holidays were spent slaving over a hot stove before being evicted to the cold since I wasn’t considered “family” by my father. I’d walk the lonely streets, catching glimpses of warmth and love beyond the barrier of neighborhood windows.
“Fine… I don’t approve, but whatever. I know better than to think you’ll ever change your mind.”
She lifted her alabaster arm and lightly gripped my hand in hers.
“Did I ever tell you about my valedictorian speech?”
“Just answer the question.”
“No. I don’t think you did.”
“Well I was the only woman in the course. It was the 1980’s, so a woman training to be a mechanic was practically unheard of. The men constantly told me that I’d never make it past my first exam, much less the whole program. But you know how much of a defiant bitch I am…”
I smirked and nodded my head.
“Well every time they told me I’d fail, I’d try a bit harder. While I was getting A’s, most of them were being forced to drop out. So, when I finally graduated, I was told that I’d be the valedictorian. I got up to the podium and looked out to see my father, proud faced, and my mother, making a mess out of her make-up. I had no speech planned. But I ended up talking for at least twenty minutes about how being told that I couldn’t do something made me want to do it even more.”
“That’s quite the story. I bet my grandparents were proud of you.”
“They were. But I think you missed the point. You asked me earlier why I didn’t care. I did. I still do because you’re my son. Granted, I never raised you with ‘I love yous’ or held you close when you needed a shoulder to cry on. I did the only thing I could do. When you told me you wanted to be a journalist, I told you you’d fail. Yet, last year you graduated with honours and said ‘guess you were wrong.’ You defied everything I said to you, and you refused to give up. ”
“That’s because I damn well knew better.”
“Exactly. I’m not saying it was right, but I taught you to be strong, just like I was. It may not have been fair–all the shit you had to live through with your father and I, but I hope someday you’ll be able to understand and forgive me.”
But I couldn’t forgive her.
My eyes flitted to the ticking clock, and I knew dad would be home soon. I was in no mood for a reunion. I said my goodbyes and quietly left—no longer angry, but drained. She had left me as hollow as she looked. She finally gave me the gift I longed for—to start anew.
As autumn fell to winter, the burning leaves were reluctant to fall, instead mourning the loss of my mother’s natural beauty.
The morning light danced across the serene scene of frosty diamonds, glittering quietly. I could only whisper gratitude, as it brought ending to her frail existence. But, I still needed to speak, only no words came. She was buried with cruelty, scorn, and disrespect.
Only too late did I realize that she was the woman who meant the most to me. The time to resolve petty tensions, thoughtless arguments, and biased anger had passed. Unable to capture the moments lost, she was forgotten to time, and repressed within my memories, haunting me with the conversations we should have had.