My mother's name is Cynthia. Until about a year ago, that is what I called her, "Cynthia". Just that. Drove her nuts. Bonkers, really. Just to let you know, I am equal opportunity and used my father's first name as the chosen form of address. I started this late in high school and just continued the habit for a couple of reasons: first, it was a completely passive-aggressive way to annoy both of them - twice. Once when I used it for D*** and once for Cynthia. Yeah, I admit that I got a little pleasure from that. What can I say - sometimes I am not so nice. Next year will be my 20th class reunion (not that I will be attending) but for a fair amount of my adult life I continued the practice.
The choice to use of my parental's first names provided others the perfect opportunity to give me unsolicited comments on what they felt about this practice. I once had someone tell me that this was the height of disrespect for my parents as parental figures. I was a little confused by that. The fact was this person had never seen any interactions between my parents and myself. So, I wasn't sure where this comment came from in the scheme of things in the universe. I certainly didn't degrade the use of their name when I used it - but I have gotten ahead of my story and this memoir.
When I was 22, I was living with my parents in "Hotel O***" a fabulous place where the washer and dryer worked without coins, I slept in clean sheets on my childhood bed and contemplated if I should pursue a Master's degree in Art History or work full-time as a temp. The job had certain perks - with no school loans, no car payment and a credit card with a $500 limit - all that money of $11/hour was intoxicating. Did I mention Hotel O*** had no daily, weekly or monthly rate. Sweet. It included my own bathroom, a hot tub outside and a in-garage parking space. I came and went in my pre-paid car, sleeping in my comfy full-sized bed with extra pillows and black-out blinds. The only drawback was the third-shift gig. Hence the room-darkening blinds. I was like any other recent college-grad in the mid-90's with a liberal arts degree. I hadn't grown into the desire for more money because all my needs were being met. And the thing is, I liked living with my parents. My dad and I shared (and still share) a love for great music and the season tickets to the shows at the local venue were a sweet bonus. I can't forget the 10th row behind homeplate season tickets to the local professional baseball team. We sat in front of those baseball wives and I people watched. Trust me, baseball-wife Barbie is something Mattel has missed the boat on.
My fabulous hit a speed bump in the fall of 1995. I came wandering home around 6:30 to an empty house. Not particularly a thing to raise any concern, although I had expected my mom to be home from her 3pm aerobics class. The answering machine "Message" light was blinking and I gave it a distracted punch. At this time the whole family had cell phones, but voicemail, caller ID and the amenities we take for granted today weren't on our list of necessary things at the time.
A voice from the local Y was calling to tell someone that my mom had an "episode" at her aerobics class that afternoon. The instructor and the fitness director gave her some orange juice and crackers - thinking it was a blood sugar episode. Which was odd to me - the woman didn't have diabetes and she certainly never skipped a meal. Just wasn't in her nature. The metallic voice continued: she had been taken to the local hospital's ER which was standard protocol at the Y.
D*** traveled most of the week during those years, working for a whacked out family-owned catering and vending company, covering 3 states in his job as a Director reporting directly to the VP - making the company millions in profits. In fact, looking back, I fully expected a call of this nature to pertain to D***, who was overworked, stressed, tired and harassed by a woman with some type of Napoleon complex that had to do with her being the brains of the operation owned by a Greek family, one that didn't recognize her amazing talents.
D*** was out of town that week. I believe it was a Wednesday, early fall. So, I just got back in my car and went to (what I thought) was a simple pick-up of my mom from the ER. After all she didn't have access to her car, parked at the Y. I arrived at the ER and asked for her only to be told she had been admitted. Again, a little on the non-normal side of things, but maybe she had developed diabetes and needed some time for observation. She was admitted for observation. no alarms going off at the time. So I took the convoluted directions (I am sure they weren't but I never fail to get lost in hospitals - weird quirk, I know). And when I came into her room, there she was in a hospital gown with all of the lights off except for the TV and the hallway spillover, it was dim.
"Hello, I hear you had an episode and need to stay for observation," I began the conversation. My mom looked at me and patted the bed next to her. Here was where the standard protocol became not-so-standard. The gesture was so intimate, so out-of-character for my immediate family. I must have started to look worried or panicked, because my mom started talking to me in the most soothing tones I had heard. Again, behavior that was not normal. I sat down on the bed and she took my hand. At that point, this kind gesture really threw me and I blurted out - "What's wrong". Her next words would be surreal.
In the hospital's protocol, when a person faints and comes in to the ER via ambulance that has nothing to do with blood sugar, there are certain tests that are completed. One of those tests was a CAT scan. The CAT scan showed a white, golf-ball sized something in Cynthia's brain. "What does this mean?" I asked suddenly out-of-breath and feeling the particular squeeze in my chest that precedes tears.