And Now for Something Completely Different …


I had accepted my Mother’s impending death yet nothing prepared me for the morning she went blind.

It had been three weeks since I learned the terrible news. My Mom – aged 83 , was diagnosed with Pancraetic Cancer.  This was the fourth time this terrible disease had been diagnosed in the poor woman’s body.

The first time was a  year following the death of my Father when I was twelve years old. Cancer had been discovered in her intestines and an operation was scheduled to remove a section of them in order to sustain her life and in effect – her mothering duties of me. It was not until six years later –  I learned the profound effect this incident had on my life.

I recall following my Mom as she was wheeled on a gurney into the elevator . A ride that would inevitably carry her to a successful operation or – her death at the age of fifty – four. I was informed by someone – this was as far as I could go. Beyong this point was for the doctor , nurses and whoever was involved in the surgical procedures. Here I was . A  twelve year old boy , less than a year removed from the sudden death of his Dad , left standing alone in a hospital corridor as the door of an elevator commenced closing on what could very well be – the final time I saw my Mother’s face alive.

As my eyes met hers – words exited my mouth that may have surprised my Mom and the orderly that was helping her. Instead of saying  ‘ I Love You ‘ or  ‘Don’t Worry Ma …’ or anything that was remotely appropriate  – I gazed into the eyes of the woman that gave me life and I said ..” Fuck Off !’

At the age of eighteen , following  years of walking around hating everyone – especially my Mom and Dad , I decided to visit a councellor. Deep  inside I knew – something was wrong.

My Mom had survived her battle and for the ensuing eight months – I was the model kid. The chemotherapy was intense , chasing hair from her head and instilling extreme vomiting on this poor woman. I had no option but to cook , clean and take care of many daily operations around the house . Each evening – my duties for the day done , I would place my head on my Mom ‘ s chest to ensure  she was still breathing .

All of this in a time while dealing with school and all the peer pressures that are inevitably included in a twelve , soon to be thirteen , year – old boy.

Once my Mom  recovered – I became the biggest A * * hole walking …

The ensuing years brought school suspensions , extreme drug use and emotional abuse towards my Mom and any girl I became involved with. One day – I woke up and decided that  I needed to speak with someone.  Pronto ! If not – I was going to land up in jail or subjected to a life of alcohol or drug abuse.

It did not take long. Three or four meetings was enough to exorcise the demons within.  Seven words were all that was required to ease my pain. Seven elementary words from the mouth of a trained professional that altered my life and removed one hundred pounds from my shoulders !

Once I parlayed my experiences to her amid shouting , crying and general carrying – on ; the woman that I owe a gratitude of debt – looked at me and said ; Of course you are mad – you were taking care of your Mom when SOMEONE SHOULD BE TAKING CARE OF YOU !

In the ensuing years – I resorted back to my self and took care of my Mom as much as I could as I grew from boy to man. We had numerous discussions and endured more hard times. Occasions that including the re – appearance of her Cancer twice – once in her lungs and the other , her colon.

Together , along with my dog Barney – we became a close knit family. A loving feeling that I did not feel until years later when my own children – Francesca and Owen were  born.

I came to realize that this woman , a lady that survived one heart attack , a partial paralysis , seven miscarriages , three cancers , the death of her thirty – six year marriage and a horrible teenage boy – was not going to give up very easily.

When the doctor informed her of  the Cancer in her Pancreas and her ultimate fate – my initial reaction was one of non – chalance . Nothing had ever stopped my Mom from carrying on , dancing on tabletops and enjoying life ! I was not worried in the least . In fact – on my Father  ‘s deathbed , it was he who had informed my Mother that she would live to the ripe age of 107. A number that had become mystical as the years passed and Mom overcame many obstacles.

This time – upon visiting my Mom in the hospital , I saw something that turned my heart into sadness.

The ‘ light ‘ in my Mom’s eyes had been extuinguished. I knew there was no more fight in this woman . She was tired and I accepted that. Me -much  more than my four older Sisters and Brother , much more than her new husband of four years and much more than any friend she spoke to – was well aware of the pain and suffering that this lady had endured. I lived with her day – to – day.

As she lived her remaining days in the hospital amid many vistors and well wishers – I saw her every morning and every night. Never in my life had I felt so useless as I watched my Mom slowly descend into nothing. Morphine became her best friend as the pain derived her of  everyday pleasure. I. V replaced the pleasures of real food as her system rejected the doctors attempts at feeding her.

Still – she was my Mom and as I sat with her each moment that I could – I carried on as if nothing was wrong. I asked her advice and I spoke of my daily activities as if life were normal. I was not going to let my Mom know that I was in pain. I saved the tears for the waiting area each and every time I visited. After all  – I had never seen her cry !

It was the sixth day of  September. One day before my  fortieth Birthday when my Mom, Constance Hilda Holnbeck Keene lost the use of her eyes.  The diabetes that had entered her life five years earlier was the victor in this woman’s latest battle. Words cannot explain the sadness , the anger and the helplessness I felt that morning – four days before she passed away.

I recall sitting at home that evening and probably , for the first time in many years – wished that my Dad were alive. I felt so alone as a single man . I had just been  seperated one month earlier and was fighting in court to see my two young children – aged three and four.

My Mom was buried one week later…

Her body laid to rest amid mixed emotions. Her suffering had passed yet mine was just beginning. The woman that had been my sparring partner , the nurse to me as I to her , my confidant , my friend and enemy , my Father – was gone for good.

I had said everything I pretty much wanted to over the years . I apolgized numerous times for my bad behavior. I had made amends and told her many times in her final years – how much I loved and appreciated her.

Hey Mom …?

Thanks for the signed Birthday card on my fortieth Birthday! Even though you never saw it – I always will …

Love ,

Rick  xo

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