The Changing Room

It was just one more day where I sat and stared at the non-descript gray sign that read ‘Women’s Changing Room.” There were some days when I imagined I was sitting in the locker room of a fancy golf club. Other days I dreamt I was waiting for the assistance of a clerk at Nordstrom to bring me a smaller size in that skinny black dress I fell in love with as I sipped from a glass of lukewarm Chablis.

Today felt different. For some reason, today I felt a sense of doom. I think it’s because I let other people get into my head. I reached over to the magazine table to get my travel cup and promptly knocked over my coffee. Great, I thought to myself. This is going to be a lousy day.

You see, this was my normal way of looking at things. One little thing goes wrong, and I let it spoil the rest of the day. The thing is though, that sign in the dressing room reminds me that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have a choice. I had to keep on going, no matter what. I had to be the voice of reason, the pillar of strength, the everlasting light of hope.  There were some days when I could handle it. And some days I crashed and burned.

Today, I felt the tiny flames singeing at the fair hair on my arms and the bristles of my unshaven legs. Mom looked so pathetic. She had successfully completed six weeks of chemo and radiation. I say successfully for several reasons. One, her tumor had been totally eradicated. And two, for her age, she   was remarkably strong, gliding through the treatment with few side effects.  Sure, Mom lost some of her hair. She was blessed with a really thick head of hair, and at 88, it was a beautiful shade of silver. Not the old lady blue silver… and when she began to lose her hair it was only the dark hair that she found in her comb every morning.

I never minded taking her to all of the radiation treatments in the early mornings or sitting with her to pass the time as she received her chemo treatments. I relished the time in my kitchen seeking new ways to tempt her appetite in ways that were acquiescent to her condition… easy to swallow, filled with nutrition and flavorful enough to cover the tinny taste caused by chemo.

The one thing that I couldn’t handle was her depression. Her demeanor, for her entire life, had generally been upbeat, her outlook positive. She wasn’t a complainer and she didn’t fear death. She is a fatalist. She always told me, “when your number’s up, it’s up.” She took this diagnosis in stride, saying on most days, when I would marvel at her grace, “do I have a choice?”

Today was different. I kept trying to nap, but I kept seeing the sign in the waiting room of the radiation oncologist’s office.  “Women’s Changing Room.” When did she change?

I can’t quite figure out whether Mom is reacting to what’s going on in the world around her with the Corona Virus pandemic, or if she had a bad night, or if she had cabin fever. Today, she changed.  Today, she didn’t care about getting better, or eating, or anything else.

I wasn’t in the best mood anyway, for other personal reasons, so I stayed out of the way. I didn’t cope well with the new attitude. I had spent the last three months trying to keep her alive and laughing, and she didn’t seem to care.

I remember when my grandfather was ill. She would always say to him, “You’ll feel better tomorrow.” Maybe tomorrow, she will too.