Sunday, August 14, 2011

UCLA Week 5: Memoir

Eight weeks into working for The Comedy Network, I’m sitting with my boyfriend Steve at a VIP table at a comedy club. It is my job to meet talent, pair them with producers, meet producers, take pitches for TV series and take them all along the production line from development to on air. I love comedy, I love socializing, and this new job is a perfect fit! Most of all it is the perfect distraction from the life I lead outside of work. Outside work, life is not funny.

Concentration failing me, I miss most of the comedy. A shock of applause brings me back to the room, clapping I and throw a smile of encouragement toward the performer. I grasp at the neck of my shirt feeling as though don’t have enough air.

Arriving home from the club I surrender to bed. The phone rings, Steve still awake answers.

“Hello, yeah? Oh, okay. Michelle it’s for you. It’s your sister.” He hands me the phone.

“Hi.” Sue says.

“Hi.” I echo, a silence comes over the line.

“The nurse called and told us mom looked like she might be going. We were just there. We left the hospital to go out for dinner. The phone was ringing as we came through the door at home. Dad said to sit tight we’ll call ya with an update.”

“Okay.” I hang up.

Repaying the conversation to Steve. He comes over to hug me.
“Hon, she’s gone. Hospitals tell families that so they can safely drive back, so they are not overcome when they arrive.”

“Oh.” I break from his grasp and calmly head to the armoire to pull out all the black clothes I own and begin to stuff them into a suitcase. Steve watches me. Next, I move toward the sink and begin to wash dishes. When my world spins out of control I clean. I can control the dirt.

A telephone ring cuts the silence. Quickly I grab the extension before it rings a second time.

“Hello.” I say.

“She’s gone. Can you come? They’ll hold her here in her room until you can get here.” Sue’s voice is shaking.

The drive from Toronto to Ottawa is fast. We pull into a vacant spot on the street in front of the building. The wet shiny road is sprinkled with the cheerful reflection from Christmas lights. The dark night sky is broken by the waltz of large fluffy snowflakes. It’s almost five o’clock in the morning. Steve places a hand on my back encouraging me forward. I look up at the hospital and see a giant black raven perched on the overhang of the front entrance. It takes off into the night. I move forward again with a little coaxing from Steve.

“I’ve never seen a dead body before. Like, not before they are done up at the funeral home.” I say to Steve.

“Hurry sweetie, a body can only be held so long before it must be moved and they’ve already been waiting five hours. You’ll be okay, your family is here.”

My father ushers me into the room, “She told me I was handsome, then she was gone.” He hugs me tightly pulling Sue into our embrace. “Your mother loved you both so much – the only thing she ever wanted was to be a mother.”

Looking over his shoulder the vision of my mother in bed shocks me. She is so tiny, considerably smaller than she was when I saw her last. She is not peaceful looking. Her face shows signs of fight and struggle and her mouth hangs open. Tucked under her hands is the little bear in a bee costume along side a Beanie Baby that looks just like my sister’s son, little gifts from my sister and I.

“Let’s not let anything ever come between us.” Dad says hugging us tight. We hold each other and cry both out of sadness and relief. After six years it is finally over. I replay this scene over and over in my head wishing his statement rang true. So much has come between all of us.

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