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When The Guilt Of Your Past: A Daughter’s Story Part 1

May 4, 2010

by Guest Contributor Miss Brittany

I’ve never been one to talk much about my mother.

I always envied my sister for her ability to be vocal.

When I was younger, it was because I was ashamed. I didn’t understand Multiple Sclerosis, a disease for which my mother had been diagnosed.

Then as her condition continued to fluctuate and progressively get worse, I periodically lashed out, accused her of faking it, being lazy and not wanting to try harder to over come. I didn’t understand how the same mind that was so sharp and strong when it came to punishing me when I did wrong, was also the same mind slowly being overtaken by neurological damage.

I didn’t understand and more importantly, I didn’t want to. I stopped going places with my mother because I was embarrassed. I remembered the days of her walking me and my sister to the bus stop, the days of her running around the church during praise and worship, the days of her jumping up and down in our apartment hallway because she wanted to show how she was fighting MS. I remembered those days, and in an effort to remember them I refused to acknowledge how things were changing.

As my mother’s condition became debilitating, I was able to hold on to my ignorance. I was the youngest of two; three years my sister’s junior. At 14 when my sister got her first job and assumed her caretaker role, I was too young. Three years later when I was 14, I was living with my dad.

I moved in with him because, while I thought I was just being the typical disrespectful pre-teen, I didn’t realize that my mother’s condition couldn’t handle the stress that my actions were placing on her. So I lived with my dad until the summer before my sophomore year, because my sister was off to college and my mother needed me. I resented this time period. I felt abandoned by my dad, and I blamed my mom; “If she was well, I would still be living with my dad.”

Everyday after school, I came home and went straight to my room. I would stay in there until my mom knocked on my door and told me she was on her way to her MS meeting or on her way to church or even on her way to bed. At 16, when I should have been stepping up to the plate, I was selfishly reverting back to my childhood and refusing to be the help my mother needed.

Until one day, I came home from work and my mother was on the floor.

She couldn’t get back into her wheelchair, which was happening frequently. “Brittany, can you help me get up?” I struggled with my mom, for about 15-20 minutes trying to get her into her chair. The brakes weren’t sturdy and the chair wasn’t well built so every time I tried to lift her it slid back.

Finally we gave up, and went to sleep on the floor together.

That was one of the first times her struggle REALLY hit me. By then I was 17, graduating from high school and off to college within the next three months.

It was April 25, 2008, two weeks and two days before my graduation. It had been a long four years at the University of Illinois and finally, the day I was waiting for, was rapidly approaching.

I’ll never forget this: I had been watching the B’Day DVD, with all of Beyonce’s recorded videos, when I my phone rang:

“Imagine me, loving what I see when the mirror looks at me cause I, I imagine me…”

Hearing that ringtone let me know it was one of my family members.

My sister.

“Buzz me in, I’m outside,” she said.

“Outside where?”

“In your lobby, duh!”

“Whatever, no you’re not.” ”

Yes, I am, me and daddy.”

“No you’re not!”

This went on for about thirty seconds. I was stalling. Throwing things in closets to “straighten up,” just in case this wasn’t a prank.

Sure enough, when I stepped outside my apartment, I saw my daddy and sis through the hallway door. I was ecstatic! I ran up to my daddy giving him hugs and kisses, just like a daddy’s girl should.

To what did I owe this pleasure? I remembered asking that about ten times in seven different ways and I got no response.

My dad and sis got settled in my apartment and for about forty five minutes, my sis and I finished watching the Beyonce video together, singing and dancing.

When the video went off, I searched for something else to put in the DVD player in order to entertain my guests. “Why don’t you leave it off?” my dad said. I figured he was sick of Beyonce.

Then he looked at me.

It was a funny look, a look beyond my eyes, into my soul… and then he uttered the words “Mommy died.”

“MY MOMMY!?!” I screamed.

My dad just nodded. With that confirmation I bawled over, uncontrollable tears and the shakes.

I remembered tears like this from when I was just eight years old and I woke up in the middle of the night after hearing a scream come from my mother’s bedroom. When I walked in her room, I saw her shaking uncontrollably. “Mommy get up, wake up!” I remembered saying.

I remembered calling 911 and saying “my mommy won’t wake up, she shaking and she won’t wake up!”

I remembered those tears from when I taped a “magical” rhinestone on a spot of blood that had soaked through her mattress from when she had bit her tongue. I remembered those tears as I laid down on that spot every night and said a prayer for the mother they had now declared brain dead.

Then I remembered those tears from the summer after my freshman year in college.

When I first got to college I declared that I would be a better daughter to my mother, and I was even counting on the distance to help me.

I had kept my promise throughout the year, but decided that I should try the “absence makes your heart grow fonder” theory, even into the summer.

One day I was taking a nap before work and my phone rang. I saw my home number.

I thought, “I’ll call my mother back.”

Twice more I received a phone call and ignored it. The fourth call, I answered.

It was my mother’s caregiver and she was frantic.

“I came in to check on Kathy and she was lying on the floor! She wasn’t saying anything and her eyes were in the back of her head! I’m so scared Brittany! I’m so scared.”

My mother had a stroke, brought on by complications of her MS. I panicked.

Guilt. I had just talked to my mother the night before and I told her that I would call her back… but I didn’t and I feared I would never talk to her again.

I remember calling my daddy’s office and crying into the phone for someone to put my dad on the phone.

I got on the first greyhound to Chicago to go see my mother.

I remembered those tears from when I saw my mother laying in that hospital room unable to speak.

I remembered them a week later, when I was alone with her and I began to speak to her and apologize for everything I had ever done. I remembered telling her how “I didn’t know.”

I remembered crying when I saw the forgiveness in her eyes, because I didn’t think I could forgive myself.

But now on this day, April 25, the day after my mother took her last breath all those tears recycled themselves over and over again and I could not stop crying. Nothing could comfort me. Not even my daddy who had joined me on the floor and had blanketed himself around the ball that I had made myself into.

That week I was a wreck.

Nothing had ever felt like this before. Was I really on my way home to bury my mother? Nine days before I was to walk across the stage, on Mother’s day, I put my mother’s body to rest.

The tears had become less frequent, I had stopped sleeping the days away.

I was dealing with my mother’s death, or so I thought.

To be continued…

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