Kevin paced up and down the hall that led to the bedroom as he waited for the phone to ring. His mind raced; screeching to a sudden halt as he passed the bathroom and noticed that the fluorescent light was flickering spastically. There was a blinding white colored light followed by a duller fleshy pink.
"I need to remember to fix that before I leave for China." He thought.
The old house had the smell of age and wisdom. It had an old musty sensation even though the housekeeper he had hired made it sanitary enough that one could eat off the floors. He knew how to pick quality. Kevin despised this house, but he was drawn back once again.
Kevin was at the end of the hall once again. He stared at the figure that stood before him in the two and a half by five-foot mirror hanging on the wall. The figure was that of a thirty-year-old going on sixty. The sunken eyes and exhausted stance reflected his story.
There were glimmers in this figure's eyes. That of the 5 year old boy who use to tie a blanket around his neck and he was superman; flying down the hall ready to save the world; with mom yelling at him to slow down because he was going to crack his head open. Then there was the grounded 10 year old boy who was beaten black and blue by the school bully; a fight Kevin didn�t start but finished the voice of mom was there again angry on the surface but deep down he heard the pride of a son who did good by standing up for himself. There was the 16-year old boy sneaking in after countless hours spent at Denny�s and the lake with the girl next door, his first and only love. Mom was heard in the sound of light breathing, she never knew about these comings and goings. The shell-shocked thirty-year-old returned with a disappointed look on his face. Kevin made eye contact and turned in disgust.
"Giving up is not an option."
With an about face, Kevin marched through the Living room, past the dining room, into the kitchen to the butcher�s table. The plastic of the old rotary phone was cold to the touch. 1-4-1-1.
"Tucson Medical Center"
"Room 543 please."
God I hope she�s there.
"West wing nurse�s center."
"Um, hi. I�m looking for Katherine McNab, this is her son Kevin."
"Just a second sir�. She�s still getting CAT scans done�"
"Weren�t they supposed to do that this morning? She should have been finished by now."
"Some of the other tests took a little longer then expected�I can tell her you called."
"That won�t be necessary, I just got into town an hour ago and I�ll be down there in a half hour."
"Thank you for your help."
"Have a nice day."
Kevin was amazed at how nurses and hospital staff could sound so perky when people were suffering around them. He stomped back to the hall that led to the bedrooms. Halfway down he stopped and peered into the mirror once more. The figure, in his charcoal gray business suit from JC Penny�s, scowled at him again. "This won�t do." The suit disappeared in the opposite direction as Kevin turned left into the bedroom that knew him as a little boy.
A pair of Dockers, Doc Martins, and a blue and white plaid, button up the front, short sleeve shirt replaced the suit. Kevin walked out of the bedroom and met a man that was probably 10 years younger then the suit, but he was just as haggard. Down the hall, through the living room, and out the door to the Toyota Camery Kevin went without thinking about how he was going to react to the situation at hand. He use to be superman right?
"It took you long enough. What kept you?"
"The damned airport again. There was this lady in coach who threw a hissy fit about having to check something. How�s Mom?"
"Any results?" Kevin searched Amy�s eyes for signs of good news; something he knew wouldn�t be there.
"The tumor is bigger. They want to operate to relieve the pressure. You should have come sooner."
Amy�s eyes frantically searched for a resting point. The present had left her detached from the reality that Kevin had already accepted.
"I couldn�t get away from work. She told me she didn�t need me�"
"She�s not herself. God Dammit Kevin, she�s your fucking mom."
"I�m here now."
"Yes, you are here now. I just don�t understand how you can be so calm. How long are you staying this time?"
"Three months minus a week in December. I�ve got to go to China."
"I don�t have a choice Amy, I was suppose to go next week."
"You don�t have to justify yourself to me. Do you want to go in now?"
"Let me warn you she�s lost a lot of weight."
Kevin watched the janitor mop the floor two doors down the hall on his left. The pine-scented cleaner he was using almost covered up the smell of dying. Amy opened the door to room 543. The light from the early afternoon sun painted a path to where Kevin�s mother slept. The bed engulfed her small frail body. She seemed to grow smaller as time progressed. The rhythm of her breath had the sound of cold gentle breeze that coaxed the leaves from the trees. She woke and her sea green eyes appeared and disappeared beneath pale blue eyelids. A trembling fifty-year-old hand appeared from under the frost colored bed sheets to brush a strand of silver lined hair that wandered onto her face. Kevin thought about her war torn body and the battle that still raged within, as he scanned over her pale weathered skin, sagging; barely held on by the spider web of veins, arteries, and capillaries which threatened to give as she stretched to awaken the body which still ached to sleep.
The image that was burned forever in his soul was her eyes. Eyes of a child in pain, but barely able to sit still; waiting to move on to the next exciting uproar on the path that was to be traveled.
"I�m here Mom."
"I just had a dream about you. You were on the very beach of Japan that George and I honeymooned on. I saw you walking with someone�I couldn�t quite see who it was. Then you fell and she carried you."
Kevin, still lost in the transform woman who use to be his mother, watched Amy�s hand find hers. "How are you feeling Asalie?" Amy�s understanding eyes met Kevin�s across Asalie�s body. The message, I�m sorry, I should have prepared you better, brought Kevin back from the sea of emotion that threatened to drown him if he dare became weak. Her chocolate brown eyes beckoned him from the foot of his mother�s bed to her right side. The trapped child in the old woman�s body locked in on Kevin�s.
"George, did you come to get me? I�m ready to go home." Her eyes begged to be taken away from this death and dying.
"That�s your son Kevin. Are you hurting?"
"Oh, I must have been dreaming again. I�m hurting a little. I�ll take something when I get home."
"The doctor says you need to stay in the hospital for a little while."
"No I don�t"
"That�s what the doctor said ask Kevin." Amy met Kevin�s eyes again asking for support.
"That�s what he said mother."
Kevin�s eyes broke Amy�s gaze and met with the blue eyes of a nurse, with short brown hair appeared out of thin air. "I need to give Asalie a shot so if you all can step outside. Mr. Jones, the doctor is making his rounds if you would like to talk to him."
Kevin wondered how she could do it. Move in and out of the rooms in this place, filled with dying people and have the tone oblivious of the sadness around her.
"Come on Kevin." Amy�s hand found Kevin�s like it did fourteen years ago and guided him through the now dark path towards the door, to the white fluorescent light that suspended life, time, and reality.
"Mr. Jones, I�m Dr Carter. I have some of the results back from your mother�s test. The tumor she had in the midbrain seemed to have spread to the Hypothalamus and Hippocampus."
"What does that mean?" Kevin fought to keep the composure he practiced time and time again in times of crisis.
"Your mom is dying and there�s nothing we can do to prevent it." Amy squeezed Kevin�s hand, which seemed to give him the support he needed.
"What do you mean? The tumor spread? How long has she had it? Why didn�t you do anything then? Why didn�t anyone tell me?" With each question Kevin pushed the world, the hospital, and the doctor away from him. He was supposed to tell Kevin that an operation, some chemo, and a little radiation would make everything right again. By suspending time and cheat death once more. The doctor was supposed to be a scientist and scientists don�t give up. Never! The squeeze of Amy�s hand brought Kevin out of the downward spiral to emptiness once more. "So, what�s the plan? How long do we have?"
"An operation to remove some of the tumor and relieve some of the pressure may help keep her alive for two or three months at the most. If we did it earlier�"
"Why didn�t you do it earlier?" The electricity of Kevin�s words made Amy release Kevin�s hand to save herself from the impending flood of emotion that was unpreventable.
"She refused treatment."
"Why?" Why, Why, Why, Why, would she do this? How can she leave me? Choosing to quit before you fight? "So how long does she have?" The tinge of helplessness in his voice made the sculpted professionalism etched on the doctor�s face melt a little showing the human side to the judge after giving the verdict that the medical jury had found.
"A few weeks. It�d be a miracle if she made it a month. All we can do is make her comfortable." Kevin�s mind took another plunge in the abyss on the word comfortable. He wanted to know what that meant.
"So does she get to come home?" Amy�s voice sounded so distant.
"If she chooses not to have the operation. She needs advanced care. I can set up an appointment with home health for tomorrow morning. I�d like to keep her one more day."
"She won�t have the operation. Go in and ask her, she can think for herself. I can tell you she�ll say no." Amy�s voice echoed over and over again in Kevin�s head bringing him back to the white light of reality. The doctor walked into 543 and Kevin watched the entrance of the door. Waiting, oblivious to the gentle tugging of Amy�s coaxing for him to sit with her for a moment. Fifty-seven breaths later, he came out looking more human then when he went in. He looked at Kevin with eyes of one who just failed at maintaining the façade of logic. "She wants to go home. I�ll have home health call you to make an appointment tomorrow morning." The doctor walked down the hall that the janitor had cleaned hours before.
"Mr. Jones, you can go in and see her now. She was given her pain killer so she�s going to be a little groggy." Kevin searched the nurse�s eyes and there, beneath the surface was the pain that the perkiness covered like a moth-eaten blanket. She quickly averted her eyes after becoming aware to the invader that found her out. Kevin watched her turn and walk down the hall opposite to the way the doctor had gone.
Kevin sank down the wall to the floor that still somewhat smelled of pine. The flood of tears defeated the composure he had worked so hard to maintain. This can�t be happening. He was being cheated. He fell into the abyss where there was no emotion, no feeling, just the nulless void of a helpless situation. Redemption pulled him out once more as Amy�s arms enclosed him. Her fingers ran through his hair searching through the emotional abyss that was drowning his soul.
"Kevin, I�m sorry. I should have�"
"Why? Why didn�t you call me earlier?" Hate, pain, fear, shame, pride, and love
rushed though his mind playing hide and go seek with his train of thought and sanity.
"She didn�t want me to. Look I know you and your mom have had your problems but when I called you it was because she asked me to. She made the first step. She never stopped loving you. You two should fix things now, there�s not much time left. Go see her and then we should let her rest."
Kevin got up and walked into her room. The Television cast a bluish light about the room, casting shadows that ebbed as he pulled the curtain back. Even though her beauty failed her, there was something tenacious about her that would span space and time. He was at her bed again. Her eyes fluttered fighting to stay awake, a fragile arm reached for the chance at the love that could send a flood to wash away the silent, wasted years. It was cold in his warm hand.
"I�m sorry son." Coughing as she clumsily tried to sit up, she longed to hold him as a mother again.
The words stung Kevin as they echoed in his head. He wondered if he had come home more often, if he had called more then once a month she might have told him in time. In time where he could changed her illogical mindset to embrace the miracle of medicine, or at least try medical treatment. He couldn�t even remember why he stayed away so long. He should have come home, he would have known then, but there would be more fighting if not over old wounds then medical treatment would be added to the collection of festering scars. No, he was sure logic would have prevailed. He could have saved her. "You should have told me." He helped her sit up and succumbed to her persistence to hold him like a baby.
"I know. I�m glad you�re here." Suffocating silence crept up as her words echoed out into infinity. The seconds flew by measured in the pulsing of the monotone metronome that measured her heartbeat.
"Mom, why are you letting yourself die? I don�t understand."
"Sweetie I�m not dying in the long run. Ever since your father died I�ve not been living."
The pain welled up in Kevin as he pushed it down, now wasn�t the time to fight. "You didn�t have to do this. You aren�t supposed to die yet. They could have saved you."
"They MIGHT have saved me. They MIGHT have killed me. I was dead either way. Tell me son, which death would you have chosen: Death by modern medicine or by natural process. I watched your father battle with the aid of modern medicine and I chose not to go that way. Throwing the dice so some medical genius who tells me he THINK that this treatment or that one might cure me so he can be published in some journal on the off chance that he cures me; only to relapse back into the cancer to repeat the whole process again�I think not. Son I don�t want to throw my time, life or money in that black hole."
"Dad died, you might have lived." The tears streamed down Kevin�s face; trying to join a sea that never existed.
"Son, I love you dearly, and I treasure every moment I�ve spent with you, but it�s my life. I miss your father and all I am waiting to do is join him. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me." Her embrace seemed weaker as she let the silence surround them.
The anger that was ebbed and flowed through Kevin�s body was complimented first and then overwhelmed by helplessness. "I don�t want to loose you." The silence filled the air once more. She had broken out in a sweat in the heat of the moment and now she left him to his own thoughts as her medicine set her a drift. Kevin held her fragile body as the moon crept up over the window ledge repainting celestial paths to heaven. He took the towel that was hanging at the foot of the bed and wiped the sweat from her face as fell deeper into slumber. The moon painted the beauty back into his Mother as Kevin watched her slept. He planted a kiss softly on her left forehead and followed the path out the door that the fluorescent lights carved.
Time stood still the last fourteen days that Kevin spent with his Mother and after the first week it became ritual. Days started with an eight am shower then a trip straight to the hospital. Only leaving for food and fresh air. He�d read to her, everyday even though she wasn�t conscious half the time. She heard him though. He could almost hear her comment on how the young kids now days aren�t as horrible as the news says and if they are it�s the parent�s fault. She�d have made comments on how politics has turned into one very longwinded farce to horrible to even bother with.
He bought her a couple of potted ferns from the gift shop. She had a way with plants. Kevin watched in amazement as they thrived at the table near her bed. They were conflicted though not quite sure which way to grow. The majority of the new foliage grew on the side nearest his mother. Kevin would water the plants with a pill cup one of the nurses gave him and then he�d kiss his Mother on her left cheek and head home.
The day she died Amy met him at the door of the hospital. Kevin had gone out to McDonald�s to grab something to eat for lunch. He turned on the radio and Blessed Union of Soul�s Nora was playing. He noticed the sky getting darker as he pulled into the hospital parking lot. As soon as he saw Amy�s face, Kevin knew.
He screeched to a halt barely making it into the parking stall. The asphalt of the parking lot flew underneath him as he ran to see if there was a possibility that his fears were wrong. The lady sitting in the front desk didn�t stop him as he rushed to the elevator. Amy caught up to him as he pushed up over and over again. "Dammit." The golden doors finally opened. The people exiting the elevator as Kevin bulldozed through them.
During the ride he thought about what he�d say to her if she were there. He�d tell her about how everything she said was right. He�d thank her for her love, her affection. He�d apologize for being a horrible son. He�d hold her; he wouldn�t let her leave him until�
The doors sent Kevin off like the starter�s pistol at the track meets he sprinted at in high school�Through the door of 543. She was gone.
Kevin collapsed on the floor by the foot of the bed. He didn�t feel Amy�s arms around him, rocking him his mom use to do. He didn�t hear the condolences the nurse gave as she handed him a tissue. He didn�t notice the sun peaking through the window. He didn�t notice the warmth the sun showered through the window on him, as it reflected off the same strength, illuminating him as it did his mother. The only thing he heard was the line from the last song he heard. �I learned the difference between living and alive. Wall to wall roaches in a two by four infested room, lying there in pain praying for the lord to taker her�
Goodbye Mother. Say hi to George for me.
Kevin let Amy drive him home.