So, here it is. April Fools’ Day. Mike Day.
I’m forced to re-live this time every year, the final days of my son’s life. I can’t turn away, I can’t shut it out.
The story unfolds over the course of six weeks as the possibilities of life-extending treatment shrink. Finally, there is nothing.
That’s the problem. I know the ending. As my long-running family joke goes, “the guy dies.” That came from a comment my mother-in-law made as we sat down to watch a TV show she had seen.
“Oh, I saw this one,” she said, excitedly. “The guy dies.”
It’s my family’s code for a spoiler alert.
So, every year, as I am forced to re-live these final days of my son’s life, I can hear his voice saying, “The guy dies, Mom.”
I can’t even begin to describe the ache. There are no words. You can’t know unless you have lost a child to injustice.
Like so many others, I have become passionate about eliminating the cause of my child’s death. And I have lost friends over it. I understand people must grow weary of my grief, and it’s OK if it;s too much for them; I can’t walk away from it. I can’t escape it, so I have to act on it.
Get over it, people tell me. Move on. Mike would have wanted that.
Well, most of these people never met Mike. None of them ever felt his passion for the marginalized. None of them was in the room when he gave me his blessing.
So, today, we wear plaid because it was Mike’s favorite color. Yeah, I know, but that’s who he was, ever the jackass.
At his memorial service, his Savannah friends came to me and told me that henceforth, April 1 would be Mike Day, since he was the consummate fool, and everyone would wear plaid.
So, today, I sport a plaid shirt, plaid socks, plaid sneakers and a plaid baseball cap with a Red Sox logo, which would have pissed him off no end because he was a rabid Yankees fan.
Eleven years ago today, Mike told me he was tired and didn’t want to get out of bed. That was fine, of course. He had the I’m Dying Card, and that was un-trumpable.
I ran some errands and came home at noon to find him napping. I ate lunch, and the hospice nurse came at 2.
We couldn’t rouse him.
”He’s between here and there,” she said. “He’s transitioning.”
This could last hours or days, she said. But I knew he wouldn’t stay that long, so I called Danny and told him Mike had hours to live. I asked Rob to call Mike’s dad because I just didn’t have it in me to hear him sob.
Then I sat down by his bed.
”He could be here for hours or even days,” the nurse said. “You need to take care of yourself.”
I saw him into this world and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to be the one to see him out, I told her.
Rob had gone downstairs to e-mail work and tell them he wouldn’t be in and I sat and talked to Mike. I talked about how much he had given me, about how proud I was to be his mom, about how I would fight for the lives of others as hard as I had fought for his.
He woke up a couple of times and told me he loved me, and then he reached out and called my sister’s name.
My older sister, Ellen, had died a year and a half earlier, and we all knew she would be the one to come fetch him Home. She was way too bossy to allow anyone else to do it. A few minutes later, at a little before 4, he was gone.
On April Fool’s Day, of all days.
I had convinced myself that I would go with him, that my heart would stop when his did. I was so pissed to be sitting there. It was — and is — so unfair.
Later that night, James and Janet arrived and we went out to dinner. I wasn’t hungry. As we sat at the table, Rob took my hand.
“No mother ever loved a child more than you loved Mike,” he said.
“A lot of good it did,” I said.
I miss him every moment of every day. Everything makes me think of him. I can’t take a batch of bread out of the oven without hearing his voice, his mouth full of warm bread with the butter just beginning to melt: “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it isn’t at my house.”
Sometimes I wish the phone would ring at 11:30 at night and I could hear, “Hi Mom, I knew you’d be up.” These conversations could last two or three hours and meander through topics as varied as Star Trek, Monty Python, history, philosophy, food, politics and the asshole driver who had cut him off that afternoon.
Sometimes he’d call me when he was stopped in traffic so he could vent. He’d alternate between talking to me and yelling at the driver in front of him.
“Hey!” he called out his car window, “It’s the long thin one on the right! You push down on it with your foot and the car goes faster!”
I miss his foul mouth and his maniacal laugh.
I miss opening my secret stash drawer and finding no dark chocolate there because you couldn’t hide anything from him.
I miss his love for his cats and his obsession with good food — especially the dark chocolate creme brulee.
I have been robbed of these things and so much more.
Eleven years ago today, the heart of my soul stopped beating.
So tell me again how I have to vote for somebody who won’t pledge to fix health care NOW. Not in 10 years, not in five, but immediately.
Don’t even think about trying to shame me into voting for another “centrist.” If you’re not for fixing this right now, we’re done.