A Touch of Reality

September 8, 2010
By , Sunman, IN
I had just got off of work. I hated working on Saturday, it made the weekend seem so much shorter. I pulled into the parking lot, parked my car, and grabbed my room key. The tall apartment building was brightly lit, I could see people on the top floor, laughing and dancing, like nothing else mattered. I made my way to the elevator, hitting the small, diamond shaped button with the back of my hand. The door slowly slid open with a soft hum and I stepped inside, hit the button for level three, and it started moving.

I exited the elevator and approached apartment thirty-four. I slid my key into the lock and twisted the knob. I was greeted with the familiar scent of lilac perfume. I noticed my roommate, Tracy, was on the phone. “Hold on, She just got back,” she said softly, holding the phone out to me. “It's your brother.”

“Hey, Brandon.” I said cheerfully. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing good. Mom hasn't been feeling well.”

“What do you mean?” I said slowly.

“She's been having some severe headaches lately, so Dad took her to the hospital last week to have some tests run.”

“Why didn't you tell me about this?” I said, irritated.

“We didn't want you to worry. Anyway, today we were in the middle of dinner and she just slumped over onto the ground. We think it was a seizure.” I immediately felt my stomach twist into a tight knot.

“Did someone call 911?” My voice was shaking and my hands were trembling.

“Yes, I called as soon as it happened and Dad rode in the ambulance with her. Mrs. Wilson, from next door, came over to stay with me.”

“Brandon, I'm going to leave right now. I will be at the hospital as soon as I can.” I hung up the phone. Tracy looked up at me from her accounting textbook.

“What was that about?”

“My mom's in the hospital. I have to go home to see her.”

“You can't just leave!” she said quickly. “Final Exams are this week!”

“I know, but I have to go.” I left the conversation at that, making a run for my bedroom. I grabbed a duffel bag and stuffed everything I might need into it. Before I left, I gave Tracy my home number, just in case.

It was an hour and a half drive from my apartment, which was on campus to home. I needed to stay calm and think positively. I kept telling myself everything was going to be fine.

Before I knew it, I was at the hospital. The hospital smelled like a mixture of bleach and medicine. I approached the front desk, where a middle-aged woman had her head buried in some paperwork. I was starting to get impatient. “Excuse me, I'm looking for Mary Hayes. She arrived by ambulance earlier this evening. I'm her daughter, Reagan.”

The woman looked at me over her reading glasses. “Let me check for you,” she said, forcing a smile. She turned to her computer, making multiple clicks on the mouse. When she turned back around she was still trying her best to smile. “Mary was admitted to the Emergency room around 7:35 this evening. She's in the back with the doctor right now, we will contact you when Mary is allowed to have visitors.”

“Thank you,” I replied. I found my way to the waiting room, where my dad was already sitting. I took a seat beside him. “They won't give me any information about how she's doing.” I said.

He didn't say anything for a while, just staring straight ahead at the flowered wallpaper. “I'm sure everything is just fine,” he said suddenly.

I fumbled through my purse in search of my cell phone. I dialed home and put the phone up to my ear. It rang 3 times before someone answered. “Hello?” It was Brandon. “Reagan, is that you?”

“Yes, this is Reagan. I'm at the hospital with Dad. We're in the waiting room. They won't give us any information on Mom yet.”

“Mrs. Wilson is going to bring me there, we are getting ready to leave.”

“Alright, I’ll see you soon.” I hung up the phone and stared at the muted television. The eleven o’clock news was on. I looked to my right where Dad was sitting, he had his head propped against the wall behind him, and he had fallen asleep. Seeing him made me realize how tired I was. I had worked an eight-hour shift at work today after going to my morning Statistics class. I glanced at the clock, it was 11:15. I rested my head against the wall behind me. My eyelids felt heavy and the waiting room was a blur. I felt my consciousness drifting away and then all my thoughts ended.

When I awoke, it was 2:35 in the morning. Brandon had arrived sometime after I had fallen asleep. Dad was talking to Mrs. Wilson and Brandon had his head on my shoulder sleeping. I reached over and picked up a magazine to pass the time.

About 45 minutes later, a tall man in a white lab coat entered the waiting room. “Family of Mary Hayes,” he announced. Dad stood up and the doctor made his way over to us. He was young, thin, and had dark hair. “Are you the Family of Mary Hayes?” he asked again.

“Yes,” my dad answered. “I am her husband and that is our daughter and son,” he said pointing to Brandon and me.

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Dr. Martinez,” he said, shaking all of our hands. “Well, we have stabilized Mary. We ran multiple tests including a blood test, a CAT scan, an EEG, and a few others. We have the results for the blood test and the CAT scan. The blood test didn’t show us any information but the CAT scan did. It showed a large mass located in her temporal lobe. We’re not exactly sure if the mass is cancerous or not. We will have to do a biopsy to determine what type of mass it is. Do you have any questions?”

“When will the biopsy be done?” Dad blurted.

“We will schedule it for tomorrow,” he replied.

“When will we get the results for it?” asked Dad.

“It usually takes about 3 days to get the results back,” he said. “Any other questions?”
The room was filled with silence. “If that’s all I will take you back now to see her.”

We followed Dr. Martinez down a long corridor, passing medicine carts and nurses stations. We finally stopped in front of a gray curtain. Dad was the first to enter the small room, followed by Brandon and I. Mrs. Wilson didn’t want to go in just yet.

The first thing I heard upon entering the room was the beeping of Mom’s heart monitor. She was awake, but she looked tired and worn out from such a long day. Her eyes were sunken in, with dark circles surrounding them. She looked so fragile and weak. I reached out for her hand, embracing it. Her skin was ice cold and she was very pale.
Brandon stood at the foot of the bed, just watching. Dad was on the other side of the bed. “How are you feeling?” Dad asked.
“I’m feeling better already,” she said. As if this was just a twenty-four hour virus. “I’m tired, but I think I’ll be out of here in no time.” She said enthusiastically. Her voice sounded strained and quiet.
Dad reached for her other hand, gently cradling it in his hands. “I’m sure everything is going to be fine,” he said slowly. Brandon and I both looked at each other, we knew he was just trying to keep Mom thinking positive.
We visited with Mom for about a half an hour before Dad finally said “We better get going.” But of course Mom refused. “If you’re going to get better you need to get some rest Mary,” he said calmly. Mom nodded and said her goodbyes.
The drive home was silent, nobody said a word except for Mrs. Wilson, who didn’t understand how Doctors could expect you to wait 3 days for a result.
The next morning Mom had her biopsy and the wait began. The next three days seemed like the longest days of the year. Brandon, Dad, and I spent every waking minute with Mom that we could. Dad spent the night in her room with her, but insisted we go home for the night. We came back bright and early every morning, bringing her some of her favorite CDs, books, and magazines. We even played a few board games too. Dad would spend every morning reading to her from the latest newspaper. Despite being in the hospital, Mom seemed to be happy.
When the third day finally came, we were all gathered in her room waiting for the Doctor to come delivering the news.
At about 10:45 he strolled into the room, pulling out the stool from under the table. “I have the results you all have been waiting for,” he said smiling, as if it was a joke. “I’m sorry to inform you that the biopsy results showed a large glioblastoma tumor located in the temporal lobe. A glioblastoma is a tumor that has finger-like projections that extend to all parts of the brain. They cannot be removed and there is currently not treatment for these kinds of tumors. This tumor has already advanced to stage IV, so I’m afraid that there is not treatment that will do any good at this point.”
“Are you sure there isn’t any treatment we could try?” asked Dad.
A shadow seemed to cross the doctors’ face. “Sir, there is always treatment you can try, but at this point, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. It will only make her feel worse. It wouldn’t improve her condition,” replied Dr. Martinez.
“What would you recommend doctor?” Dad asked.
“Her time is limited, and there’s nothing we can do. So I would recommend taking her home, making her comfortable, and enjoy the time you have left with her. I can prescribe pain medicine, so she will be more comfortable if you would like.”
“How long does she have left?” Dad mumbled. This was the question no one wanted to hear the answer to.
“I would say maybe 2 months,” he said. The room was so silent, you could have heard a pin drop. “I’ll let you guys have some time alone. If you have any more questions or concerns, here is my number. Feel free to call at any time,” he said, handing my dad a small white card. “I’ll be back in later tonight,” he said as he ducked out of the room. My knees went weak, my stomach twisted into the same knot it had been in earlier, I was suddenly nauseous, and feeling dizzy.
Brandon buried his head in my shoulder, sobbing. “Could you give me and your mother a few minutes alone?” Dad mumbled. Brandon and I exited the room. Standing in the hallway. Brandon sobbed as I tried my best to comfort him. I tried to soothe the pain, but eventually, I found myself sitting on the ground next to him, sobbing with him. This was our mother. How were we supposed to go on without her? I had always thought she’d be there for me, I always assumed everything would be ok. I needed to get in touch with reality.
After about twenty minutes, Brandon and I finally stopped crying and pulled ourselves together. I stood up and pulled back the curtain so I could peer into the room. My dad had his back to me. I could see that my mom had fallen asleep, her chest rising, taking in slow even breaths. My dad, who had spent the last three days convincing all of us everything was going to work out, was crying. His head was down, resting against the rail on the bed, and his shoulders shook as he wept. I had never seen my dad cry before. This scared me.
I pulled the curtain aside and stepped in. I gently laid my hand on his back, startling him. He spun around staring straight at me; his eyes were red and puffy. I had never seen my dad like this. He pulled me into his arms, wrapping his arms around me and holding me tight. For that moment, I felt safe and secure.
Mom spent one more week in the hospital before she was discharged. The doctor told us what to expect in the next couple of weeks and he schedules us with Hospice. We took her home and made her as comfortable as possible. We never left her side. Dad even watched her sleep sometimes. We made phone calls to all Mom's closest friends and relatives, informing them of her situation. Many came to visit and say their goodbyes.
Aunt Mildred, my moms sister, came over everyday. One night she had brought us dinner and I was helping her set the table. “She looks really sick, Reagan. I don't think she has much longer.” she blurted. I stopped what I was doing and turned to face her.
“That's a horrible thing to say about your own sister!” I yelled. “She's actually doing great! In fact, we played a whole game of Scrabble the other day,” I added.
“Reagan, you can't honestly think she's going to get better,” Aunt Mildred said soflty. “Reagan Hayes, look me in the eye and tell me that your mother isn't dying!” she said. I slammed the plate I was holding onto the table and stomped out of the kitchen all the way up to my room. Where I locked myself in and cried myself to sleep.
We were all in denial. Dad kept saying that the doctors were wrong and she was going to get better. Brandon kept talking about the vacation we were all going to take when Mom was well enough to travel. And I just avoided the topic as well as I could. I didn't like the thought of loosing her. How was I going to survive without her?
Over the next couple of weeks, Mom called us all into her room, one at a time. She had a private talk with each of us. She told us how special we were to her, what she wanted for us in the future, she gave us advice for when she was gone, and she always made sure we knew how much she loved us. She had everything worked out for when she died, so Dad wouldn't have to worry about it. She was ready, and we weren't.

It was week seven, Hospice was visiting everyday now. Dad and the Nurse, Mrs. Philips, were in Mom's room with her. Brandon and I were in the kitchen, grabbing something to eat. “Reagan! Brandon! Get in here!” screamed Dad. I slammed the refrigerator door shut and took the stairs two at a time. I sprinted into the bedroom. I could feel the tension in the room.

On the bed, lay my mother. She struggled to breathe, sounding hopeless and trapped. “What's happening?” Brandon asked.

Mrs. Philips laid her hand on Bran dons' shoulder. “Her breathing has become labored. I'm afraid this is the end,” she replied. Upon hearing t his, my fingers went numb, my stomach twisted with cramps. My arms felt heavy, as if I couldn't lift them. My mother looked thin and frail laying in the bed. Her breathing was now light and rapid.

“Can't you do something?” I begged. “Can't you do anything? You're the nurse.”

A shadow seemed to cross the nurses face. “There's nothing more anyone can do for her,” she said calmly. I shifted my gaze to the faces of my family. Brandon was scared and pale. Dads face was streaked with tears. I took a step back. The pain I was feeling was unbearable. I wanted to scream and fight off this illness that was stealing my mothers life from us.

Brandon grabbed Moms hand, pleading her not to leave us. I knee led next to him, embracing my mothers hand, holding it tight, not ready to let go yet. Dad was running his fingers through her hair.

We stayed by Moms side, her breathing slowed until eventually it seized. Her chest no longer rising and falling. She had taken her last breath. She was no longer in pain.

I didn't realize how quickly and quietly death came. One moment, Mom was breathing, the next moment, she wasn't. I had always imagined death to be horrible and painful, but for my mother, it seemed to be peaceful.

The only sound that filled the room was the sound of Bran dons sobs. On the bed, my mother seemed to be sleeping. As if she might wake up at any moment. I drifted toward the window, lifting it open. A breeze blew in. Above us, a bright blue sky filled the atmosphere. The distant sound of children playing tag, laughing and playing. Everything inside was different but everything outside was still the same. My throat ached with tears. I stared out the window at a Mother pushing her baby in a stroller. My eyes blurred with tears and my world was filled with sadness. I buried my face in my hands, muffling my sobs, trying to soothe my pain like my mother once had.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

BistyBoo2 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 20, 2010 at 9:32 am
Beautiful story!!! Can't wait for more!
Stolla replied...
Sept. 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Why thank you! :)
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