The last days of Mom’s Chemotherapy, Tuesday morning as I leave

Mom’s pillow, a white case with scalloped edges, covered in her hair, all different lengths, in patches and clumps. I fluffed it up and then stopped. I lifted the sheet and covered it, and made their bed haphazardly.

Dual black and white pictures from their honeymoon, boarding a River Cruise in Paris, 1978. Dad is looking away, fluffy hair parted in the middle. He wears brown pants & a Navy peacoat. A sailor by the door is looking off at something behind him. In Mom’s, the sailor is looking at her. She is smiling full teeth, wearing a beige, belted raincoat, and black bellbottoms. Her long black hair is pinned halfway up her head with an oval shaped, tortoise-shell clip. The pictures sit in a pearl and zirconia-studded frame they got for their 25th anniversary.

Dresser in my bedroom. Two faded posterboards of a mock advertising campaign I made senior year of college in my Ad Copy & Design class. They show eight boxes bordered by green construction paper, and tell the story of two men golfing, a pitch to sell Markham golf shoes. Mrs. P’s final grade of A- is stapled to the back.

A Father’s Day card from me, taped to the side of the computer’s CPU. I had sent it after he acquired his own consulting business. In blue ink I wrote: “I’m so proud of you and everything you have accomplished. Thank you for being a great father and always an inspiring role model.” On the inside of the card, an illustration of a mouse waiting off-stage for a bigger mouse, with the message: From your biggest fan.

Mom’s bureau. Earrings for all seasons, red bulb ornaments for Christmas, silver mini skulls for Halloween, she even has a studded turkey pin for Thanksgiving. A pair of crystal beaded studs, that look like oversized Chrysanthemums, that I gave her last year unused, still in their cardboard box labeled in gold print “Delicates”.

The Computer room. All of their degrees, in cheap plastic frames and expensive wood ones. From Niagara College, Salve Regina University, UPenn, Catholic University, Drexel University and Steven’s Institute of Technology. Waiting to be hung on the side wall, a poster of Mars Observer, the research satellite my father worked on while working at GE Astrospace. Grandmama, Mom and I watched the launch from Cape Canaveral with him in 1992, the second time in my life I had seen my father cry. In the bottom right corner, the RCA logo, featuring Nipper the dog listening to a gramophone.

The kitchen table. During her chemo treatments, that’s where she kept her appointment slips, her medical bills, her medicines, all wrapped in a white CVS plastic bag, layered among half-written Christmas cards. Resting on one of the chairs, a huge yellow lined notebook where we had written all the pros and cons of my job last summer. The ink on the con side started running after I sat above it and started crying. Mom had taken a red pen and circled the things I could control. The only one was “Attitude”.

Also among her cancer things was the prayer that went with her turquoise prayer blanket, a short piece about Saint Agatha. From my bedroom where I am reading a book called “When Food is Love”, I hear Mom telling Dad in Tagalog about St. Agatha, the patron saint of breast cancer. Then it was quiet. And even though it was only 8:30pm, I turned to my side and fell fast asleep.

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