My mother’s birthday was a few days before the holidays. As one of my brothers said to me, “I’m sure it’s not creeping up on you, either…” And it wasn’t. T thinks that a lot of my pain and anxiety were around the colonoscopy without my mother being there, and because of my mother’s birthday, and because of the holidays without her.
Yeah, I knew her birthday was coming. I knew it was going to be bad. I also knew I had somewhat of a plan for the day. Before Mom got sick, when she was still crocheting, she hooked up a bunch of preemie hats for our local hospital’s NICU. At the time, it wasn’t a lot of hats, so we kept saying we were holding off before taking them in. After Mom passed, I took all of the small amounts of yarn I had and crocheted more tiny hats. Then I put them all into a bag and left them in my library. Because I knew what I wanted to do.
On Mom’s birthday, I woke up and got dressed. And I called my father to see how he was. He said he was just going to call me because he was going to the cemetery and he wanted to know if I wanted to go. I didn’t really, but I didn’t want him to go alone. So instead of answering him directly, I said if he would take me up to the hospital to drop off the preemie hats, I would go with him to the cemetery. He said okay, so we left about ten minutes later.
At the hospital–where my father’s sister (my aunt) was admitted and stayed for several days, and where my mother went for her lymphedema wraps–I left Dad in the parking lot and I went inside. At the main desk, they checked me in and directed me to the NICU. As I made my way down the hall, I saw someone walk into the elevator, so I hurried to join her so I could save some time waiting for another elevator. Inside, the woman standing across from me smiled, then looked at the bag in my arms and her smile got wider. She asked me if I was bringing hats to the NICU. I said yes, and her eyes seemed to sparkle. She was heading for the NICU herself…she had twin girls who had been born before Thanksgiving–when they were due after Christmas. I said congratulations and I hoped they were doing well, which she said they were. And she told me, “They brought me to see the girls for the first time, and there they were in hand-knitted hats, and it just made my heart skip a beat. That someone out there did that for me and for them, complete strangers!” Her smile was so big.
When the elevator doors opened, I walked with her down the hall and into the NICU waiting area. I wished her luck and she disappeared behind a door that the nurse unlocked for her. I approached the nurse, who was behind a glass windowed reception area, and I put my bag of 40 hats on the counter in between us. And I announced that I was there to drop off crocheted hats for the babies. In all sizes, all colors, all different types of yarns. The nurse smiled and took the bag, then started going through the hats. She oohed and ahhed over some of them, and even rubbed a few on her cheek and said how soft they were. She told me how wonderful if it was to have them, and wanted to know “how many women are there in your group that made these?” I laughed and said it was just my mom and me. The sweet woman said, “oh my goodness, please give your mom a hug for me!”
I basically nodded and smiled, gave a wave, and left the unit for the safety of the hallway. It was hard. I tried not to cry as I made my way back through the hospital and out to the car where my father was waiting. Fortunately, he was busy navigating the parking lot and trying to figure out the best way to get to the cemetery, so our conversation was pretty sparse.
When we were done and I was home, I cried. I cried because those were the last hats I had from her. I cried because I missed her. I cried because I hated where I was in my life without her.
When my mom was going through chemo, I made her a bunch of hats for her to wear after she lost her hair. Years ago, probably six or seven years, before I was crocheting, she was supposed to crochet me an open-weave sweater to wear over a tank top. She never got to it, for various reasons. I don’t even know what happened to the yarn we picked out. She crocheted me a shawl for my brother’s wedding, and added crocheted sleeves to an evening gown for my cousin’s black-tie wedding. So I really have nothing I can wear that she made for me. I wish I did. The last thing she crocheted was a lap blanket that she was expecting to donate, but a few days after she died, I took it. I wrapped it up in tissue paper and put it into a plastic bag that a set of sheets came in, and I put it away in my guest room. It’s in a drawer in my grandparents’ dresser. It’s ugly as sin color-wise, but I can’t bear to part with it. I also have a ruffled ball that was supposed to be for a baby that was a test-project. It’s on a shelf in my bookcase hidden behind some doors with the perfume that I took from her bathroom drawers a few months after she died.
I honored my mom as best I could on her birthday. My birthday is coming up soon. Hub usually cooks me a special dinner and he’s been asking me what I want to eat. I kept putting him off, because I honestly do not want to celebrate my birthday. I finally told him I didn’t want anything special on my birthday because I didn’t want to have my birthday. I don’t even want it to be acknowledged, because it’s just another reminder to me that she isn’t here with me. Last year she was in brain radiation on my birthday…she was just getting over the symptoms of the brain mets. We were dealing with the lawyer trying to get my parents’ trusts all finalized and stuff.
Last year, five days before my birthday, I had to call an ambulance at 11pm for Hub because he had an episode of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) where his heart rate was sustained up around 225 or 250bpm. They had to stop his heart twice with medication to get it reset. We went to his follow-up appointment with his cardiologist on my birthday.
Right now, I’m in pain. My arms and back and neck and shoulders hurt. I have headaches on an almost daily basis for multiple hours at a time. My hips hurt when I try to sleep. I still have nausea. I still have jaw pain. I still have anxiety over the jaw pain, though it’s not as persistent as it was in the past few weeks. I’m not sleeping much and I’m not crocheting because I hurt too much.
I don’t want to celebrate. Right now I just want the days to be days, so I don’t have to be so sad.