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I Remember the Day She Collapsed

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By Jeff Root

I killed my own mother. Or at least that’s what I thought for the longest time. I can still remember the day she collapsed in the hallway right in front of me. Her last words were “Jeff, I’m dizzy, ”  before she laid face down. That’s the moment I called 911. Before the operator could even answer, I had my 250 pound mother flipped onto her back. Mind you, I’m 165. I knew what I was going to have to do —C.P.R. I just needed some…confirmation. The 911 operator went about her training and stated, “911, WHERE is your emergency?” I rambled off the address of our home, and the state that my mother was in without being asked. She confirmed that my mind was where it needed to be. Good. I’m not losing my mind. She walked me thorough how to perform C.P.R., so that’s what I did. Breath into her mouth twice with her nose plugged. Press on her chest 15 times. Repeat Again. And again. And again. And again.

Somewhere during this process I decided to go and open the door because I knew an ambulance, armed with the most technological advancements of medical science, was on its way. I had to stop though. Was that the mistake I made that killed her? No matter. The choice was made. Back to what I had originally started. I informed the operator that I stopped to open the door so the ambulance crew could easily identify our house. Our house wasn’t exactly on a main road, or easy to find. Breathe, breathe. Press, press, press, press, press, press, CRACK!!!!!!! “WHAT THE FUCK??” was my first thought. Even though I knew what just happened. I just broke her ribs. That same instant, my mind went to: did I do something wrong? Is that supposed to happen? Should I keep going? Should I stop? Should I only breathe into her mouth now? Is there a different process now? I just killed her. Didn’t I? That’s when the tears started to fall. My moment of weakness during the whole ordeal. I knew the 911 operator knew I was about to panic. And so did I. But before the 911 operator could tell me, “you’re doing a good job, sir,” I had already sucked it up and had my mind back in instinct mode.

15 minutes is an eternity when you’re waiting for an ambulance. They finally showed up. They dragged her out into the living room, hooked her up to a defibrillator and stuck a tube down her throat. They squeezed on that bladder to make her breathe. They shocked her with high voltage to reset her heart rhythm. They failed to do so. I can’t believe I had to be the one to say, “she’s gone” and mean it. I had to be the one to call her parents, my grandparents, at 2 in the morning, keep my composure, and break it to them gently. That’s what I planned on doing, but that’s not what happened. I remember that phone conversation.
 “Uuuhhello?”

“Grandma?”

“Mmyes?”

“Mom collapsed in the hallway, aaaaaand an ambulance crew is here aaaaand……they called it.”

“Called what?”

“Shes GONE GRANDMA!!!!”

“OH MY GOD JEFFERY!!! I’ll wake grandpa up and we’ll be on the way.”

“I’m sorry grandma.”

“It’s not your fault Jeffery. See you when we get there. I love you.”

“Love you too.”
Click.

Then I had to call my younger brother and his wife. He wasn’t too receptive to getting a phone call at 2 in the morning either. By that time the only ride that I could arrange was via police. Who really wants to be in the back of a cop car? But it was the best I could do. They offered, so why not take advantage of my tax dollars? They’ve put me in lock down countless times, might as well get something good out of it, right?
After everyone in the vicinity that I had woken arrived, the chaplain said a prayer. I came to grips with reality a little bit. All of her closest family standing above her corpse, each and everyone of us closed that prayer differently.
Amen. Bahai. Blessed be.
We all had a different idea of what the afterlife was.
We all had our own dreams.

I fought as hard as I could to keep her house, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was her house, not mine. I had to walk away. A few weeks later, I packed my back pack. grabbed my tent, and set out on foot. I didn’t have any idea where I was going, but I ended up where I was meant to be: homeless. The bank came and repossessed the house. I left before they could come face to face with me about it. I knew what was going to happen, I knew I couldn’t afford that place on my own. I tried for 3 months. After that, I was falling short. I knew I had to move on. I knew that wasn’t MY dream. That was hers.

Her death was the most devastating event of my life.
It was also the most liberating.
I gave up her dreams. And started chasing my own.
For a while I thought my dreams included my ex, alcohol, and eventually, methamphetamine.
In the past 3 years since her passing I’ve given up the white dope, moved the green dope from the category of necessity to luxury. The same for alcohol. It may not be much, but its better than I’ve ever done in my entire life. I have my name on one of the most expensive apartments in the entire city now. Not much holds me back anymore. I have some more shit I need to accomplish.

And by the way, I didn’t kill my mom. It took a woman who had been a nurse longer than I’ve been alive, and broken more ribs doing the same thing for the same reason, to convince me otherwise. Thank you so much grandma. Sorry I had to unload on you. But thank you for not smacking the living fuck out of me for being so stupid when I asked you, “do you know what its like to break somebody’s ribs?” and then realizing at that moment you’ve broken hundreds, if not, thousands, of them, before you could say
”yes, I do,” and realize that you weren’t lying.
That’s quite a legacy for you to live up to mom. That’s quite a legacy for me to fulfill myself.
Forgive me for failing. But I’m at least going to try.
I had to start somewhere, right?
I no longer wonder if you’re proud of me,
because I am, and that’s what it has always been about, right?

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One thought on “I Remember the Day She Collapsed

  1. Jeff, wow. That is the first word that comes to mind. Mothers are a strong part of whomever we are regardless of their roles in our lives. To be so present and participatory at the moment of death cannot be something that rests lightly. Much strength and gentleness to you as you follow your own dreams.

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