Maybe you'll think this is eerie. Maybe you'll think this is bizarre. Maybe you'll think I am off my rocker. But if nothing else, maybe this will cause you to just to be still for a moment, and consider. Consider what? I have no idea. Maybe this is nothing. Maybe it most definitely is not nothing? I can only tell you what happened. And that I'll never forget it.
I think there are certain conversations we all have in our lives that become so imprinted on our hearts, and our minds, that we can (and do) recall them with greater clarity than others.
I have one like that. I have such a clear vignette of this moment....how I felt......the temperature of the room.....the exact song playing in the background ........the precise words exchanged... what she was wearing. It's so clear in my mind's eye if you told me this happened yesterday I would almost believe you. I remember everything that clearly. But it happened 26 years ago. How can I remember so many details from a conversation that took place decades ago when I often can't remember what the Hell I did 2 days ago. :)
It was my Freshman year of high school. December 23, 1985. 2 days before Christmas.
We'd had a half-day at school so I was home early. 12:46p if we want to be precise (I remember). When I left for school that morning everything in my world was normal. My Mom made my eggs and english muffin and yelled, "Have a nice day, honey!" as I bolted out the door to my boyfriend's car. When I would return, a mere 5 hours later, nothing - not one thing - would ever be the same.
5 hours earlier there had been music and laughter. My Mother was a Juilliard-trained musician and our house was always LOUD. Until that afternoon. And never again after it.
When I got home from school, Mom had apparently returned from the doctor. I didn't know there even was an appointment -- that just shows what all you parents do for your kids. You hide what isn't necessary to burden them with. You tell them only when/if you have to.
She'd found a lump in her breast and, since I do not know how many appointments she'd had before this one, I saw the result of the one that mattered. This day.
My mother was predictably quite jolly. Especially around the Holidays (which is probably why I hate them now).
But as she stormed into the house..............at 12:46pm........and threw down her purse.........and hurled nonsensical sentences - I was annoyed (C'mon - I was a teenager). But mostly I was confused. 'Mom!!!!!!!!!!! Why are you being so pissy'??!
All of a sudden, amid her ranting about crazy crap..... laundry not done, the sun not shining, the TV on - whatever - she turned to THE CLOCK.
We'd had a miniature antique Clock in our home that had been there longer than I was alive. Her father was one of 10 children - and one of her Aunt's had gotten it for her when Mom was a girl - and Mom LOVED that Clock. She did. She would feature it prominently on our mantle even though it wasn't the most majestic piece ever created. To her it was. It was in every home she had ever lived.
I tell you this because it is critical to understanding where this is going.
So Mom is ranting and raving - and then she notices The Clock. And she FREAKS OUT. My mother rarely freaked out. Something was up.
She started screaming about having just replaced the battery days earlier on The Clock. Yet The Clock had stopped again. And she was PISSED. She went on about that damn Clock for more than a few minutes. I'll never forget this.
I didn't know what the F was up with her. Who gives a shit about The Clock? Get another battery, woman. Good Lord.
But then she said, out of no where, "I have Cancer, Carole."
And then she bolted out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
I stood there, motionless. Staring at the floor. Staring at The Clock. Thinking nothing but somehow everything. I remember not really understanding what she had said. Cancer wasn't as mainstream in the mid-80's as it is now. I was 14. I didn't really know much about it other than people died from it.
When I think back on that scene now, with the wisdom of adult perspective, I know her ranting and raving had nothing to do with The Clock. She was incredibly upset, likely frightened beyond belief, and was "reacting". The Clock was her target but not at all her intention.
The following week she had her left breast removed. The following year, she was dead.
So why is The Clock important???
On February 21, at age 48, my mother was pronounced dead.
It would be several weeks before I would take notice of The Clock in our house after her death. But then I saw it. And I gasped.
The day she was diagnosed with Cancer, her precious Clock had stopped ticking. And it stopped at 9:05.
Her official time of death on February 21: 9:05
The Clock has never been started again. I've never allowed anyone to touch it. It remains as it stopped. When time stopped.
I can't bear to have it anywhere near me. It sits in my Father's guest room. But at the moment my father dies .... as I collapse in grief when I lose the only family member I have left .... the first thing I will grab is that Clock. I won't grab the $50,000 in cash he has hidden. I won't go to the car or the TV's or the big things to sell. I will get The Clock.
And so I submit this post in honor of when time stopped - in my life and in my heart - at 9:05 on February 21.
Rest in peace, sweet Mother - the funniest person I knew, the one who gave me my humor, and the kindest woman, the one who gave me love.
I miss you.