I have a divide in my mind, life before the attack, and life after. They by no means resemble each other. Before the attack my life consisted of working so my horse, my dog, my truck and I could go. And we did, we went all over, rough camping and trail riding and showing our way through several states. Afterwards I tried to recapture that without success. I was too scared, I felt defenseless, alone, and just about brained some poor guy with a tire iron on his way back to his own rig after a midnight potty break. I quit showing, travelling, and sold my horse to someone who would go on to take her to Nationals and get her the championship she and I had worked so hard for. Those bastards took a huge part of my freedom and my dreams from me that night, and I hate that I let them.
My truck broke down, both the transmission and the rear end went out this time. The mechanic finally figured out that the drive shaft was torqued and had been shredding the drive train. “What the hell did you do to it to twist it up like that?” he asked. I just shrugged, asked how much, and winced. I couldn’t fix it, the repair bill was into the thousands. It sat in my mom’s yard for two years, until I was ready to let it go. I gave it away to someone who needed a vehicle and had the skills to fix it. He painted it red, I saw it on the road every now and again. I hope it’s still out there, getting someone else home safely. I’m on my third Chrysler now. I’ve strayed a few times over the years, but I keep coming back, sentimental fool that I am.
My beloved Sandy dog helped raise my oldest. I still remember her mincing along next to him as he held on to her side, learning to walk. After he climbed out of his crib a few times we moved him to sleeping in a playpen and she would jump in there and curl up next to him, ever vigilant for things that go bump in the night and the odd cat wandering by. Really, that cat was odd, but I digress. I tried to break her of that habit but after hours of listening to them both cry miserably I gave in and let them be together. She grew old and developed hip problems when my son was 3. We kept her going until she couldn’t rise without help, even with the medication. My son has a few memories of her, and I’m glad she’s going to live on in him.
The relationship between my mom and I never truly recovered. I moved out not long after I met my ex and she and I didn’t speak more than once or twice a month. My mom retired, she said she wanted to be a full time grandma when my son was born, and about the time we were finally able to sit down and really talk to each other, she started having spells, as she called them. She would hear crackling in her ears and then “wake up” later, sometimes half an hour or more. It was like watching a computer reboot, she was awake but the lights were off. It was scary. We blamed it on side effects from the medications for her bad heart or her COPD, but it was no longer safe for her to be alone. She moved in with my ex and I.
The neurologist did his thing and they discovered a slow growing meningioma pressing on her frontal lobes, causing the seizures and the behavior problems. They told us that many people have them their whole life without having any problems, and that mom had likely had hers for years. I had a few weeks of bright and shining hope. They were going to cut that thing out and my mom would reappear, sweet, kind and magically fixed. They removed it but the damage was done, she was very much like a rotten, bratty, combative teenager for the rest of her life. Sometimes she was the mom from my childhood, laughing and loving, and then the next moment I was the worst bitch and her biggest failure because I made chili and she wanted mac n cheese. Eyes narrowed, she’d accuse me of intentionally tormenting her. I’d just say yep, it’s payback for all that goulash you made me eat. Mom was not a good cook.
I will hand it to her, she never once brought up the attack or used that as a weapon against me in her tirades, although everything else was open season. I knew that she hadn’t forgotten it. She never lost her faculties, just her controls. I like to blame her behavior after the attack on her tumor. It’s convenient and less painful, but when I asked the neurologist how long this had been effecting her behavior he felt she probably hadn’t been effected by it until she started having seizures, well after the attack. What does he know, right?
Taking care of her was difficult, and when she was having a good day she was miserable because she knew how difficult she was. When she was paralyzed by a stroke she made it clear to us that she was done. No more. The dr convinced her to keep the IV but she refused everything else. My siblings and I gathered at her side, and we reminisced about her legendary cooking disasters, the time the weather stranded us at the Denver Airport, when the pony someone had tied to the front porch broke his lead and was in the living room munching her house plants when she got home from work, and other family stories.
She’d wiggle her foot and squint an eye at us, interacting as much as she was able. We teased her and played with her. Being smart asses has always been my families first line of defense and we are very good at it. She gave us almost half a smile, absolutely tickled by our carrying on, and the nurses gathered in the door and laughed with us. It was as though time had peeled back to before the divorce, before the illness, before the attack, we were all gathered together laughing and singing and dancing and carrying on like the days of old, and I had the mom of my childhood back. This is the mom I strive to remember, the laughter, the fine sense of humor, the joy, the love shining her eyes.
As much as I miss her and regret that we were never able to get back into a good place, after her funeral I felt like I was able to breathe for the first time in years. Things between my ex and I had been strained for a long time, he hadn’t wanted to leave when I needed help, I hadn’t the strength to leave when I was so thinly stretched. We parted amicably enough. In a way I was starting to come back, stand on my own feet and take up the reins of my life again. Then along came this really funny southern GI…