To Drown Out The Oxygen Machine

My dying mother lies in a hospital bed set up in the (former) dining room. We have no idea how long she has left, but it won’t be long. We’ve made her as comfortable as we can.

There is nothing to do now but wait. We take turns at her side – my father, my wife, and I. (My sister *tries* to help, but she’s, well, f-cking hopeless on a variety of levels I can’t even start to begin to detail here. So there’s sometimes another tension that no one needs right now.) My wife has to return to England in a couple of days, but she will fly back here in a week or so. (We were supposed to go home together, but I’m staying here in the U.S. until my mother passes. My father needs me.)

A hospice nurse comes in every other day or so. To escape the drone of the oxygen machine that rumbles constantly in the house, when I get a break from my Mom I retreat to the guest room where we’re sleeping and stick in headphones. Besides reading the net, about the only escape I’ve got is tinkering now and then with the 99.9 percent finished Distances.

And thinking about everyone and everything is unavoidable. And, wow, does one think at times like this. Your mind is everywhere.

Free Stock Photo: Mountain Stream in the Forest.
Free Stock Photo: Mountain Stream in the Forest.

Visitors do help. My (now late) novelist uncle’s two kids – none of us are “kids” any longer, of course – came by to visit my mother yesterday. We’re all busy and don’t see each other much, but the moment we do it’s all breezy familiarity once more. We grew up together.

He was best man at my wedding. She is a dynamo television news producer on a major U.S. network TV program you would recognize instantly if I mentioned it. We had a wonderful laugh – we all so needed it – when she handed over a gorgeous chocolate cake a prominent celebrity – again, someone you would recognize instantly – had sent to her as condolence. “You know, ________ sent me this. She’s so cool. But my house is full of food now. I can’t eat this!” she roared. “Let’s all eat it here,” she declared as she thumped it down in the middle of the kitchen table.

My mother loved it.

Their having visited – and talk of their Dad with my mother, and all of us – spurred me to remember. Fictionalized, not only my (now late) uncle, but my parents, late grandmother (and grandfather), and those cousins, are all over my novels.

In horrible times like these, I’m now learning your childhood recollections return to you with an absolute vengeance: how your parents once were with you when you were truly “a kid” and how everyone else once was. This bit in Frontiers – which I wrote almost 2 years ago – suddenly came rushing back to mind…. my Dad, Mom, and Grandma (“Lucy”), all together, just those three, and how they talked. Happier times:

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Frontiers,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Because, eventually, memories are all we will have left to us.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I went through something like this once, waiting for my brother to die (childhood cancer). The grieving starts before they pass over. Just keep that in mind. Then one day you have a good cry (took me many years) then you move on.

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