Chapter 34 | Hi Mom
“Are you sure about this? There’s no turning back now.” I glance over at my brother. He’s sitting in the passenger seat of the jeep, his right leg bouncing as he sips on an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I’m sure.” He nods nervously, “I want to meet her.”
I turn the key, killing the engine. The both of us get out of the jeep and head inside the large, brown building. I smile happily at the secretary, who still gives me dirty looks to this day.
“What’s that about?” Liam whispers beside me after we pass the front desk.
“Don’t worry about it.” I shake my head, “Not important or relevant.”
Liam nods as he finishes his coffee, tossing the cup into a trash can just as we pass it.
Once we reach Lori’s office, I knock once, and then push the door open.
“Lori?” I announce myself, walking inside as Liam follows behind me.
“Dallas! Welcome! Sorry, I’ve been running a little late this morning and haven’t had a chance to get myself together yet!” I hear Lori shout from her in-office bathroom.
“No worries! We can wait!” I shout back, hoping she catches on to the ‘we’ part.
I smirk just as Lori opens the bathroom door and steps out into the main room.
I look over at my brother, who only smiles at Lori with a short wave.
“Liam, Dallas has told me so much about you!” Lori smiles wide, walking over to happily shake my brother’s hand.
What Liam does though, catches me off guard.
Instead of taking Lori’s hand, he pulls her in for a hug.
Lori seems surprised, but eventually returns the hug with a smile.
Once they pull apart, Liam and I take a seat on the soft couch, as Lori sits opposite of us.
“I just wanted to thank you for how much you’ve helped my sister. For everything you’ve done for her, when I couldn’t.”
I turn my head to face Liam, giving him a sad smile.
“Please, there’s no need to thank me, I just provide necessary tools in order for Dallas to figure out her life on her own terms. All of the progress she’s made, is because of herself, less because of me.” Lori says with a small smile of her own. “I’m just happy I get to finally meet you.”
“Ditto.” Liam cheekily grins.
“Now then, let’s get started with today’s session.”
I nod to Lori as she gets herself situated.
“Liam, when would you say is the time that Dallas started to stray away from what you would consider to be her ‘normal’ self?” Lori asks, getting straight to the point.
“Uh, well, I think it was the day our mother died.”
My eyebrows crease in confusion. I think I handled that as best as I could, compared to more recent events.
“How?” I ask, glancing over to my brother.
“You may have blocked that entire day out, but I remember it perfectly.” Liam says, referring to the day the doctor’s told us there was nothing more they could do for our mom.
I think back, trying to piece together the hazy memories.
| Flashback |
“Liam! Hurry up! We have to get to the hospital now!” Dad shouts toward the stairs.
After a few minutes, Liam comes barreling down the stairs, taking the steps two at a time.
I’m standing at the open front door, having already been ready to go for hours. The three of us were supposed to come home to rest, but I couldn’t sleep a wink.
We all leave our once lively home, and head for dad’s car.
After an excruciatingly long drive, we pull into the hospital’s parking lot.
After we make it inside, dad leads the two of us directly to mom’s room, though we’ve all had it memorized since the first day she was admitted.
It’s been two long weeks, and we’re finally getting answers today as to mom’s recovery.
She’s been really sick lately, but the doctors have been rather positive thus far.
I know she’s going to be okay, she’s our mom. She’s the strongest woman I know.
As we approach hospital room number 312, my eyes widen at the number of nurses going in and out of the room. Machines are beeping furiously, and everyone looks frantic.
This can’t be good.
“Excuse me, what’s happening with my wife?” Dad shouts as one of the male nurses come rushing out of her room.
The male nurse looks up at my dad with a heavy frown.
“I’m so sorry Sir, but your wife coded a few minutes ago. We were able to resuscitate, but she’s just barely holding on. She’s responsive for now, but we aren’t sure how much time she’s got left. I think you and your children need to start preparing yourselves.”
The entire universe completely stops moving. Everything slows down to a standstill as I reach over and grab Liam’s hand, holding it in a death grip.
It’s becoming hard to breathe, and it feels as though the walls are closing in on me. Responsive for now? Prepare ourselves? What does that mean?
Silent tears start falling down my face, one after the other. I use all of my energy to glance at my brother, his face stoic and unreadable.
Suddenly, my feet are moving before I even have time to calculate where they’re taking me. I abandon Liam’s hand in the process, passing my shock-ridden dad, rushing into my mother’s room.
There’s only one nurse left standing, as she monitors my mother’s vitals and jots down hand-written notes on her clipboard.
“W-What’s happening?” I barely manage to say, catching the woman’s attention.
“She’s awake, but a little unstable. You should come and sit with her.” The nurse suggests, finishing up her notes as she walks out of the room. Dad and Liam finally find the courage to walk into the room, as dad rushes over to the other side of mom’s bed.
“Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” Dad sobs, “I don’t know what to say.”
“I was wondering when I’d see you.” Mom says, a very small smile on her chapped lips. Her voice is horse, barely recognizable.
Liam stands at the foot of her bed, his face still stoic. It’s as if he feels absolutely nothing.
I wish I could do that.
“Cheer up, kiddo.” Mom says to Liam, and this makes him finally look into her eyes.
“How am I supposed to do that, mom?” His voice is so weak, so void of anything.
“You’ll find a way, you always do.”
I watch as my mom tries to smile again, only she begins coughing uncontrollably.
Dad is immediately grabbing the cup of water from her bedside table and helping her to take a drink once the cough attack fades.
“Dallas, sweetie, are you alright?”
I haven’t said a word since I asked the nurse what was happening with my mom. I can’t speak, I can’t think, I can hardly even breathe.
I nod once, but I know she can see right through me. We’ve always had that special connection. She knows when I’m in a bad mood, when I’m sad, when I’m excited or nervous about something. She can always tell when something’s wrong. I wish I could’ve done the same for her. I wish I would’ve noticed when her cold turned into a full blown illness. I wish I could’ve brought her to the emergency room sooner, maybe they could’ve detected the pneumonia quicker.
Maybe they could have saved her.
Maybe I could have saved her.
I watch as my mom pats the spot next to her on the bed. I use every ounce of energy I have to walk over and sit beside her. As soon as I feel her hand touch my own, I fall apart.
Sobs rattle my body as I lean into my mom, her skinny and pale arm instantly enclosing around me. I softly lay my head on her chest, eyes blurred with tears.
“Mommy… you can’t go,” I choke on a sob, “Please…”
Liam’s face hardens as he watches me.
“Oh sweetheart, I’ll never be gone. I’ll be with all three of you, always. Whenever the wind tickles your nose, whenever the sun shines its brightest yellow, whenever the birds are singing, that’ll be me. You don’t need to be afraid, because I’m not. This is just a part of life, something we all have to adjust to. You and your brother are my greatest accomplishment, never forget that.” She coughs, but only a few times before she’s fine again. “To infinity and beyond.” She whispers.
My heart shatters, but at the same time I feel myself smiling. This woman gave me life, she gave me my name, my identity. She’s taught me right from wrong, she’s held my hand whenever I’m scared, she’s fixed my boo-boo’s whenever I get hurt, she’s taught me how to be me. How do you lose someone that important? How do you cope in a world where they no longer exist?
It’s completely unbearable.
“Liam, sweetie, come.” Mom pats the other side of her bed, and I watch as my brother walks over to take the vacant spot. He leans into mom’s other arm, the three of us holding each other close. Dad watches with tears falling from his eyes, all the way down his cheeks and onto his shirt.
“And you,” She glances at our dad, “My handsome, loving husband, I need you to do something for me.”
“Anything my love.”
“I need you to promise me that you’ll always be there for our kids, no matter what. I don’t care what happens, you are always on their side. Being a single parent will be challenging, but I have nothing but faith that you can do this. You are the strongest man I know, and the most caring. You are my best friend, and I just need you to tell me that you’ll do this for me.”
I’m crying hard. I can’t even look up at my dad anymore. His lips are sadly smiling, but his eyes are destroyed. His heart is broken. I can’t even imagine losing the love of my life this way. My parents have been together for majority of their lives. They hardly spend any time apart. How is my father supposed to go on living, with such a huge piece of him missing?
“I promise with everything inside of me.” Our dad nods. “To infinity and beyond.”
I make a mental note to call grandma as soon as I’m able to. She’s flying in tonight from out of town, and she still has no idea of what’s happening. We called her a week ago to tell her about everything, and she said she would get here as soon as she could. She works a lot still, so she had to make sure everything was covered before she was able to fly out.
She’s not even going to be able to say her last goodbyes to her own daughter. I can’t even imagine what that will feel like.
“Mom, do you want me to tell grandma anything?” I manage to ask through my sobs.
My mom thinks for a second, her eyes slowly closing before she reopens them.
“Just tell her… to infinity and beyond.” Mom weakly smiles.
I nod and lean into her once more, hoping and praying that if I cling to her hard enough, she’ll stay.
We lay there with mom for another hour, before the monitor starts beeping in one continuous loop. As I glance up at the straight line running across the monitor, that last piece of my heart crumbles. Dad is the first to rush out of the room, desperately searching for help. Liam holds my hand tighter, the both of us still lying on either side of our mom. Her eyes are closed, and it baffles me that they will never open again.
Suddenly, I shake my head as I get up. Liam is beside me in a second, ready to console me. He grabs my hand, but I yank it away.
I rush to the door and go to leave, when Liam grabs my hand again.
“Dallas, where are you going?” He pleads.
“Liam. Let go.” I say in a chillingly deep voice.
“No, you need to stay here, with us!” He yells angrily.
I yank my hand roughly from his hold, and push him away from me as I sprint down the corridor and out of the hospital. I run and run until I reach Lexi’s house. I can’t stand to look at my brother or my father anymore. It’s too much to handle right now.
I pound on Lexi’s door, until she yanks it open.
One look at me, and she knows.
| End of flashback |
“Dallas, do you want to share why you left the hospital that day?” Lori asks, bringing me back to reality.
I didn’t realize that I began to cry halfway through Liam’s explanation of what happened that day. I glance over at him, tears in his eyes.
“I just couldn’t be there anymore.” I admit, looking down at my lap. “It was too hard.”
“How do you think we felt? You needed to be there with us.” Liam says, looking over at me.
“I’m sorry Liam. I truly am.” I cry just as he pulls me in for a hug.
“Don’t you think I wanted to run away too? That I didn’t want to be there? I couldn’t leave dad alone. He was a complete wreck and that lasted for days. If I wasn’t helping you cope, I was helping dad.”
“Is that what makes you upset the most? That you never had real time to grieve?”
Liam looks at me, surprised that I would ask him that question.
Suddenly his hands are going over his face as he cries into them. “I lost my mom too, Dal. Our entire world shifted that day. Nothing has felt the same since. I’m not as excited for things as I used to be. I party so much because I want to forget. I sleep with girls all the time because even if for an hour, it brings me some type of comfort.”
I stare at my brother as he confesses his grief to me.
“Liam, do you think you do that because you’re looking for anything to fill the void your mother left behind?” Lori asks.
Liam’s head snaps as he looks at Lori, and then he looks over at me.
“Wow, you’re right, she is good.”
I can’t help but smile as I wipe a tear from my cheek.
“Yes, I think that’s it.” Liam nods. “But I’ve been doing better actually. I’m still hanging out with Claire, and I’ve only been hanging out with her, so does that count for something?” Liam asks Lori.
“Absolutely. Any form of development counts.” Lori nods. “Just like your sister here. She’s been through so much in such a short amount of time, it amazes me that she’s come this far, and is still doing better every day.”
Liam looks over at me, and gives me an apologetic smile. “I’ve been so blind. I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t think that’s the reason, Liam, I think that you and your sister both have been dealing with a lot. You never properly grieved over your mother’s death, while Dallas has been struggling to find her way back after a horrible turn of events. You both have been so wrapped up in only yourselves, you’ve put each other on the back burner. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, because as humans time to ourselves is always vital in recovery. I think you both doing this separately has in a way helped and now that you’ve both started to move forward, you can finally come together to finish out the process.”
I’m trying to understand and follow everything Lori is telling us. She’s so wise, so sure of everything. She reminds me a lot of my mom, and I think that’s why I’ve connected with her in the way that I have. She brings me a sense of peace, of home.
She’s helped to heal me.
Liam nods at what Lori just said, and turns to give me another hug. I know that from here, we only go forward, no more looking back. Whatever’s happened to us, won’t keep us from living our lives, it’ll only make us both stronger. I can’t even begin to express how much of a relief that is.
Lori suddenly gets up to walk over and open her office window.
“Sorry guys, but it feels a little stuffy in here.” She apologizes.
The sun is shining bright as it flows throughout the entire room. I faintly hear birds chirping outside of the window, just as a cool breeze softly flows through my hair.
I glance out of the window and look up at the bright blue sky, just as Liam does the same.