Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Happening Again

I have many obsessions. I prefer to call them Passions, and they are all healthy. They do no damage to me or anyone else.

But every so often, I get this other obsession going. An obsession to watch movies. I love movies, as you may have guessed by all the posts on here about them. And I do watch a lot, both on DVD and in the theater. But this transcends my usual interest. I watched The Wedding Date from Netflix last night, and then PPV'd Fever Pitch. Tonight, I'm going to see Serenity again, which is (sadly) already in the crappy $2 theater.

I never go to the $2 theater.

I have this feeling of desperation about it, and then melancholy when the movie is over. It reminded me that I've felt this way before. And then I realized why, and I marveled once again at what an odd, creative, messed up thing the human spirit is.

Three years ago at this time, my mother was cheerfully going through what she called a "health crisis." She'd been battling a cough for a couple of months (which was actually over a year). She could feel a swelling in her liver. Certain herbal-type things she tried seemed to be helping, but then it would get worse again.

I was sure she had lung cancer. She'd been a smoker almost my whole life. She'd battled breast cancer 15 years before, and then gone through western-medicine-induced hell that turned her off the medical profession forever. Her reconstructive surgery led to problem after problem after problem, and she was never completely healthy again. She had a period of mental health problems so severe you wouldn't even believe she'd been functioning, and had come through it all. But she was not an easy mother to deal with, so I decided she couldn't have lung cancer, she was going to be around to make me miserable until she was 92.

She had no insurance and a very minimal income, and medical bills she was still paying for a broken pelvis (slipped in the snow) and osteomyelitis (bone infection) in her jaw from an abscessed tooth the year before. That's why she had avoided seeking medical treatment for this "nagging cough." At Thanksgiving my brother and I convinced her to go to the hospital while they were visiting me. It was a horrible, horrible day, filled with shouting and recrimination, all the negative feelings we'd all had for years pouring out of us. She walked out of the ER when they took too long to se her, so I made her promise she'd go to a doctor when she got home.

Two months later, she died in her sleep on my brother's birthday, alone in her bed, of metastatic breast cancer that had invaded her liver, bone, and colon.

During those two months between diagnosis and death, she deteriorated very quickly. She wanted desperately to live, to see her granddaughters, who she loved so, so much, grow up and be the women she recognized the potential in them to be. She wanted to develop a relationship with my sister-in-law and watch her and my brother raise a family. But all she could do was struggle through each day, getting her lungs drained with a pump and try to forget the pain.

She did the last by watching movies. One videotape after another from the library, old movies, new movies, happy movies, sad movies, hopeful movies, exciting movies, nostalgic movies... anything and everything, as long as it didn't deal with death.

It's always difficult to deal with a parent's death, and all that's associated with it. I consider myself a very introspective person, though, and I'm well aware of all the threads, good and bad, that built our relationship. I recognize where I was a bad daughter, and what fault lay on her. I also recognize that we did the best we could, and though I could have done more, the most important thing was that we loved each other, and knew it.

Because I don't think I have any buried emotions relating to my mother or her death, it surprises me every year to have this desperate obsession sneak up on me. Last year it got pretty intense as Thanksgiving neared, driving me to watch movies constantly, not understanding why I was so driven until the holiday was nearly upon us, and I realized what it had come to represent for me. Last year, when I gained that understanding, the obsession died.

I hope that happens this year, too.


AuthorM said...

I love you.

Just wanted to tell you.

Natalie Damschroder said...



Thank you. It's mutual.