It was 10 pm the Saturday following Thanksgiving when I arrived at my mother's bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of Atlantic City Medical Center, Mainland Division. I was exhausted from a stressful day of last minute preparing for the 8 hour drive from New Hampshire to New Jersey after waking up to a text from my aunt that mom had gone into cardiac arrest after being rushed to the ER.My mother and I have had an awkward relationship for the last 15 years since I was married.

Well, truth be told, we have had an awkward relationship my entire life. She was supposed to come visit us the following May after this past summer when she had been talking about coming to visit Labor Day weekend and I kept telling her that she needed to get reservations made soon or she would not be able to find a place to stay in the vicinity. I gave her names of a few local bed and breakfasts as well as suggested looking on AirBnB.

At the beginning of August she messaged me on Facebook to let me know she had paid for a room in Bethlehem, NH. I live in Greenville which is bordering the Souhegan Valley and the Monadnock Region. Bethlehem is probably about 3 hours away.

Needless to say those plans had to be canceled.I often felt that she would do things such as this just to aggravate me. How the tables had turned since she constantly told me as a child that I was pushing her buttons.

I had spoken to my mother on Thanksgiving after ignoring her calls for a week. She took the opportunity to let me know that my 12 year old purposely pushing my buttons was just the curse handed down from mother to daughter being fulfilled- said with her particular brand of biting sarcasm. For the first time, I did not let her win.

I did not respond in kind.

I kept silent.

This is the last interaction I had with my mother while she was conscious.We had a difficult relationship at times but we always shared a love of books. She always encouraged my reading as a child.

I remember her reading Babar to me at night when I was very young. She never told me that I had too many books, or that I was wasting my time with all the RL Stine, Christopher Pike, and Caroline B Cooney that I read as a tween. As an adult, we shared a love for characters Kay Scarpetta and Aloysius Pendergast.

The times that I didn't know what else to talk about, I could always ask what she had been reading and she would have an answer. My mom taught me a love of learning. Learning about people and cultures. Learning about our differences and similarities and being able to appreciate those things. She told me about growing up in Atlantic City during the civil rights era and taught me a great respect for Dr.


When I was in middle school she came up with the idea of spinning the globe and learning about whatever country my finger landed on. We would borrow a cookbook from the library and cook a meal from that country. I think we did it once or twice, I loved it and kept pestering her to do it again, I'm pretty sure we never did.

When I arrived at my mother's death bed, I knew that I had to say goodbye, to let her know that I loved her, that I forgave her, that it was okay for her to pass on. How do you say all of that, with the relationship such as we had? How do you not?My mother struggled with mental illness- anxiety, depression, probably more than I knew. It's taken many years but now as a mother of three daughters, having plenty of my own mental health struggles, I can better understand that she really did do the best she was able.

She was strong in her own way.

But I am stronger.

With the departure of my mother, came my unlikely arrival at full forgiveness of my father. My father the alcoholic, the addict, the abuser who taught me to feel shame for my tears. This same man whom my mother claimed pushed her down stairs and raped her.

She told me this when I was a teenager and he had been out of our house for several years, now a resident of a Veteran's Home- bound to a wheelchair, hands permanently coiled into themselves- suffering from chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis. After discovering the truth from other family members that witnessed events that my mother told stories about, I must now admit to myself that I will never know the truth about certain things. My mother framed herself as a victim her entire life, the woman who cried wolf.

I will never know if there ever was a wolf, and I decided that I needed to stop seeing my father in a wolf's costume through my mother's eyes. I only have one parent left, and I don't know how long he will be here and I am tired of being angry and bitter and refusing to communicate with him.When I arrived at my mother's bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of Atlantic City Medical Center, Mainland Division, I arrived for myself.

I arrived for my father.

And I arrived for my daughters, that someday in the future when they arrive at my bedside, their goodbyes might be a very different experience, than mine was


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Arrival 1

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