My mother’s voice punctured the wall in my small bedroom. She coughed up last nights cigarette, then called my name.
“Michael, come here!” she said.
I heard her clearly enough. I should have run to her. I should have done something to help her, but my inner demon said, “No! Don’t you dare.” So instead I lay my lazy head back on my pillow like the piece of crap the demon inside me had helped me to become and drifted off into nothingness. Two hours later, when I awoke, she was cold as ice and already dead at least one hour from the state of her body. Her soul was already long gone, she had entered pallor mortis, the state of the body after death that causes the pinkish tone of we Caucasian to grow pale as blood drains from the smaller veins in the skin. and her body had not yet fully developed full-blown rigor mortis. It was only present in her eyelids, jaw, and neck. Over the next several hours, rigor mortis would spread upward into the face and down through the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs until it would reach the fingers and toes of the dried flesh before me. I looked at myself in the mirror beside her bed and thought to myself, I should be ashamed. I should be grieving, upset or at least showing emotion. After all, this was the lady who raised me, who changed my diapers, who fed and clothed me, who fought for me over many years, but the future doctor in me was unable to cry. I had to admit, I was one cold-hearted bastard. You see in the end, I viewed my own mother only as a lab specimen.
Over the years when my mother, who had her own ghost and demon’s was the sole support for my brothers and sisters, working six days a week as a maid to rich folks, while still pursuing her self-destructive behaviors. At least I had my books. I spent time in the natural word and avoided contact with her and her problems as much as I could. I withdrew. With my meager earnings from a paper route, I purchased a small microscope. I bought a kid’s chemistry set. I hid my feelings like money. I had grown quite distant from my mother. I could not accept her need to destroy herself with cigarettes. Yes, quite cold indeed. She had helped me to become that way with her self-destructive behavior and her constant nagging.
Still, she had been my mother, hide as I might, she had loved me and I loved her in my own way. Suddenly, all the hidden feelings erupted at once. It all came rushing back, the pain, the loneliness, the heartbreak, all those years of watching her kill herself slowly, and all the time knowing that there wasn’t one thing I could do about it. So, just now, I sat down on her bed, and tears began to stream down my face and suddenly, the world seemed cruel and cold without her in it. I just put my head in my hands and wept, not just for my loss, but for hers. She was never around to feel my pain or my longing for her.
“Why can’t you be more like your father?” she said, “At least he was popular.”
Even, with all that, she was after all the reason I became a Doctor. I tried over the years many times to set her straight, but she was on a path that no one could have predicted, let alone changed.