First, I went to the Blood Bank. I will probably need between 1 and 2 pints of blood during my hip replacement surgery. Autologous donations are the safest. The ritual was all too familiar. My fear. The sudden shock: "my God, that needle is so thick!" I warned the technicians, "I don't have good veins"--whatever that means...The nice one with glasses said she'd found one and went in. Too soon, she was digging in my arm, as panic and pain tightened into a vise. Past and present and future, were there all together at that moment and all I wanted was my mom.
Sometime later that day. I was talking to a dear friend, a wise one. Her question was simple: Rosa would you be OK if something happened to your mom while you are still recovering from your surgery and you never got to see her again?
It didn't even register. Twenty four hours later my answer to her was all about logic--I don't have all the facts yet, here's my to-do list, S is leaving town, there's more blood to bank, look at all the appointments in my Blackberry... "RR listen--this isn't about logic. What are you feeling?" "Oh you're right--I need to do some more research on the internet, figure out some survival statistics for a person who's stage IV breast cancer is as far along as my mom's."
Friday at noon. S and I are having a couple from the parish over to dinner. S wants a casual table out on the deck by the water. I resist. He leaves to go on an errand and I lean down next to my bed to pull out the storage bin of exquisite linenware my mom gave me almost as soon as she found out that the cancer had metastasized. Most of the linens are white, they graced the lovely tables that V, my grandmother, and A, my own mother set for parties in Panama and Colombia. So many times they have been hand washed and starched and ironed by my other mothers and grandmothers, women who worked for the women of my family, women who were easily taken for granted. Strong, beautiful, blessed women.
Between the thin layers of blue tissue paper that helps keep them resplendent, these embroidered, linen, lace, damask tablecloths and napkins, breadbasket liners and hand towels--these are my legacy, for better and for worse. Each time I function as the deacon at the Eucharist, spreading linens we call fair, preparing the chalice, placing each vessel with care on the Table, I am being faithful to my mothers. And this feast, with its linens, the Eucharistic elements, the simplest of all meals, redeems, or at least reinterprets, what was understood as hospitality where I come from, with all its exploitation and pretension, as well as its grace.
Could I live with never having seen my mother again, should she die while I am recovering from surgery? No. And I am one of the privileged ones, in matters of death as well as life. I have pulled out my passport--I always keep it current. I have keyed in my AAdvantage number. I have purchased my ticket and opened up the space on my Blackberry. At 5 this afternoon, I leave to see my mom, maybe for the last time.