It was freshman year at college. Mom and I had been running around sunny D.C. gathering the last bits and bobs for my dorm room - area rugs, throw pillows, and things were shaping up. Now, on my very last day with her until the Thanksgiving holiday, I started to feel pangs deep in my belly, nagging reminders of our imminent separation. I told myself to grow up.
Off to the school bookstore to complete the last big task - picking up all of my textbooks for the semester. After strolling around for 20 minutes, the crowd in the bookstore started to swell, the lines for check-out becoming thicker, the whole vibe turning a bit manic, and as neither mom nor I like big crowds, we began to make our way over to the checkout counter.
Suddenly, complete silence enveloped the bookstore. Over in the Art History shelves, someone had dropped to the floor. Nobody seemed to be moving.
I had always known my mom was special. When I was a child, she seemed to appear at the very last moment of a crisis, wielding the exact gadget or thingamamob that would solve the case, whether that be a piece of tape to repair a pair of loose glasses, a bandaid from the depths of her worn Bottega Veneta long strap pocketbook, or a lipstick for a friend (or complete stranger) in need. Driving home from school one day, she saved a fish that had been dropped from a pelican's mouth by sprinting over a pile of boulders until she was half-submerged in the Long Island sound. She carried the poor thing in a Dunkin' Donuts napkin and gently released it into the water to safety. These were daily occurences, and I began to believe Mom could do anything.
Today, she pushed her skinny frame through a throng of students and parents, through four thick rows of people waiting to pay. I plodded along behind her, nervously looking around as people watched, frozen, their jaws hanging open like big lazy fish. My mother's long freckled arms finally reached a beautiful girl shaking so hard she was practically levatating off the floor. Mom slid herself under the girl, cradling her head in her lap. Small puffs of foamy saliva escaped from the girl's lips and caught in her auburn hair. Mom cleaned them away with her tanned little fingers. She stroked the girl's arms, her face, whispering that she would be alright, that this would pass. She held her chin up, keeping her tongue down, making sure she would not choke. The girls's mother watched wide-eyed as this stranger cared for her daughter.
It felt like hours, but a few moments later, the girl awoke from the seizure - her first ever (her father had epilepsy) and looked up at my mother with a combination of utter confusion and gratitude.
Two nights ago, after insisting I did not need anyone to sleep with me at the hospital (I had been alone now three nights in a row with no complications) I was awoken abruptly by a nurse who told me I needed to get out of my room, now. I had just come from a lung biospy and was not only sedated, but somehow robbed of my eyeglasses (I am legally blind) and completely disoriented. I threw things into whatever bags I could find and waited in the dark. I waited for over an hour. And then I starting calling for help. Nobody came. When I finally made it to the room they were transferring me to, it was pitch black. I found the bed, but as I squinted around the room to try to figure out where I was - a storage room? I could make out two mismatched tables, a computer on wheels, I could have sworn there was a bicycle... It was very drafty, freezing really. I wished my mom was there.
At around 5am, I texted her. "I'll be there in 20," she texted back. And she was. She breezed right in, her Chanel Gardenia reaching me just a few instants before she sat down. "You can't see a thing, can you?" she said. "No!" I confessed.
What followed was the kind of giggle fest you only experience at incredibly important (usually somber) occasions - in church, for example. As I recounted the horrific events of the past 12 hours, we laughed and laughed, sometimes out of pure frustration and exhaustion, but mostly out of relief. We had successfully made it to the transplant floor. I was under the watchful eye of my medical team and a group of super knowledgeable nurses who would help me get better. But most importantly, we were together, two birds of a feather. What could possibly be better?