Mom, Carrie Fisher and a Jedi
During the last minutes of my mother’s life, I was outwardly calm, inwardly a manic mess.
The nightmarish fear that harboring since childhood was occurring right before my eyes. My vibrant, funny, feisty, take-no-prisoners, go-go-go mom was fading away, leaving me. Forever.
Suddenly, I was that scared three-year-old again, the one who didn’t know what to do when my training wheels fell off my bike while I was riding it. But as much as I felt like that little girl, I really wasn’t. I was a grown woman who had taken care of my mother during her lung cancer battle 24/7 for five months.
Felicia, the night aide I hired only a couple of weeks earlier, stood beside me as I watched Mom take her last breaths.
“Tell her everything you want to tell her,” Felicia said.
I had been doing that for more than twelve hours when the hospice nurse arrived at 5 a.m. when Mom’s breathing had drastically changed.
“Tell her,” Felicia ordered. “She can hear you. She can. The hearing is the last to go.”
I babbled something about how much I loved her, how she had been the best mom ever, that I was sorry if I disappointed her, that I loved her. Who knows what all I said? Then out of the blue, I said, “Find Carrie Fisher and tell her to give me something to write.”
Why the hell did I say that? My mom was dying and I was thinking about Carrie Fisher. That was insanity.
That’s the last thing I said to her. She died seconds later and the night nurse said, “What time is it?”
I looked at my phone. It was 7.42. That was when my mom died. 7.42 on 8.27.2017. Lots of sevens there, I thought.
Mom must have heard me and found Carrie straight right away. Suddenly, all sorts of weirdness surrounded her funeral and my life. There was so much dark comedy with one-liner zingers and scenarios I never expected to have in my life that I could barely keep up in my hazy grief. If was as if Carrie was directing me to write my own “Postcards From The Edge” while she sat around in heaven with my mom and dad in some swanky Cloud City nightclub.
A couple of weeks after Mom died, I headed to South Carolina to visit my cousins. The trip was her wish as she wanted me to spend time with her niece, Brenda, who is a strange combination of my mom’s and mine personalities. If you can even imagine such a thing.
I arrived at sunset in South Carolina after a two-day road trip. After hugs and kisses, I went to the bathroom, and Brenda started yelling, “Parker, Parker, Parker.” It seemed strange that she would call me by my last name but stranger things had happened during the last few weeks.
But it wasn’t me. Parker was their dog — a tan Labrador mixed with greyhound — that jumped and pounced all over the house. And no, Parker, a rescue dog who was adopted from the shelter, was not named after me. That was simply a coincidence.
Parker and I became fast friends. He woke me up nearly everyone morning. I cleaned up the tissue he loved to rip up when no one was looking. I played tug-of-war with him.
“Get a dog,” Brenda urged me as we watched television and Parker bounced around the den.
“No way,” I said even as commercials for hurricane rescue dogs toyed with my heartstrings.
I was going to travel and be free of any responsibility. My plan included three people — me, myself and I.
When I returned to Little Rock, friends kept telling me to get a dog. I started joking, saying, “If a short-haired, house-trained cute dog falls into my lap, I might take him.” In my fleeting dog ownership fantasies, I imagined some elderly woman might have to give up her dog and somehow he would find his way to me. That was about of a long shot as winning the lottery.
In South Carolina, my friend Carla texted to ask if I would house sit while her family went on vacation for a week. Actually, it was less house sitting and more taking care of their dog, Cooper, and three cats. Cooper, strangely, was my mom’s maiden name.
It was incredibly odd that two dogs in the span of only a few weeks had my surname and Mom’s. Of course, I instantly fell in love with Cooper, a pudgy older rescue dog with a coat that looks like a wacky pattern Bengal. He slept a lot, but he always managed to find his way beside me in the middle of the bed.
After a week at Carla’s, she texted to saying she and her family would be home soon. Tears bubbled in my eyes. I really was going to miss Cooper being beside me while I binged Netflix. Oh, well. The last thing I needed was a dog.
Carla, her husband Justin and their two daughters pulled up in the driveway and rushed in to the house.
“Someone just threw a dog out a truck,” one of their daughters said.
Huh? That was a hell of a greeting.
As they got out of their car, their neighbors told them that someone had thrown a dog from a truck in front of their house and it was running toward a busy intersection.
“You’ve got to go get it!” I said.
Justin and his daughters were already headed out the door as I said that.
Then suddenly there he was — this short-haired tanned creature that looked like a chihuahua with Yoda ears, terrified and shaking. Justin put him in my arms. My heart melted. And melted. And melted some more.
No, Suzi, stop with the feelings for this thing.
“What am I supposed to do with him?” I asked.
“Take him home,” Carla said.
I really had no choice. He wouldn’t let anyone else touch him. Instead, he stayed wrapped under my arm like he was supposed to be there and no where else.
“I’ll take him, but I’m not so sure about this,” I said.
My last dog was a white poodle named Bobo. I was 16. You know how long that’s been?
“What are you going to name him?” Carla asked not waiting for me to change my mind.
As a “Star Wars” fan, it seemed perfectly logical to name him Jedi, and surely, the dog had the Force in him.
“Jedi,” I said firmly.
A full moon glistened in the November night sky, only five days before my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, as I drove home with a dog I hoped wouldn’t bite me and a plastic bag of dog food courtesy of Carla. Jedi laid in my lap the entire way, shaking and whining. I was a nervous wreck, too. Carrie Fisher had had a French bulldog named Gary, but surely, handlers took care of him. Who was going to care for my new anxious ball of fur?
But then Jedi entered my apartment, and he seemed completely content and at home. He ran around checking every door and then he just stared at me.
“Now what lady?” he asked.
Hmmm. He needed a collar and a leash, didn’t he? I didn’t want to leave him alone so I scooped him up, placed him in the car and drove to Walmart.
Leaving him in the car, I rushed in searching frantically for dog stuff. I passed a display of puppy beds and grabbed a grey one. Then a black leash. A collar with crossbones and skulls. A plastic dog bone. A box of mini Milkbones. The entire time I feared Jedi would be gone when I returned to the car. A figment of my imagination created by ongoing grief.
But he wasn’t. There he was sitting in the passenger seat as if that was right where he belonged. He rode back in my lap and when we got home, he played with his toy and studied his bed.
We slept on the couch that night as he shook and whined. I confess it was nice having him there as it was bizarre trying to live in the place where my mother had once lived with me and then died.
Amazingly, Jedi and I quickly adjusted into a routine as if our new lives had always been this way, and a bubbly new life filled the silent void left by my mom.
Mom and Carrie apparently conspired, knowing what I needed even when I didn’t. They knew I would never go to a shelter and adopt a dog. Instead, they threw me one in a most dramatic fashion and gave me zero choice in the matter.
Now, I wonder what those two will do they do to top that in 2018? Wait, don’t answer that.