catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 6 :: 2013.03.15 — 2013.03.28


The time of Dan’s life

Time would not slow down for Dan. He’d quit being a volunteer driver’s training instructor. That was easy. The other teachers working in that program annoyed him. Then he told the deacon board he needed to take a leave of absence for a while. That was a little more difficult, but not much. The church would go through its budgetary ups and downs just fine without him. Last week he quit the bowling team. That was the hardest decision so far. He’d started that team eight years ago and captained them to first place in the city championship four times. His friends did not understand. Tom actually punched him in the arm pretty hard.

But no matter how much he freed up his schedule, time kept moving. Seconds moved at lightning speed.

And his mother was still ill. It was about four o’clock when he got to the care facility.

“Hey there, Mr. W.” Dan pushed his way past the nurse with only a brief nod. His last name was Wiczewski. The college-aged receptionist at the rest home had been one of his algebra students. She called him “Mr. W.” as if he were still in front of her class, holding all the answers. But Dan didn’t feel like he had all the answers.

Mothers weren’t supposed to die. Not this young. Not like this. Dan’s mind kept re-working the problem, but nothing added up. He entered her room distracted and anxious. Then everything around him forced his attention into immediate focus: the walls were tan; his mother’s bed occupied two thirds of the room; dusty venetian blinds covered a pair of large windows. Everything was bland and nothing like his mother.

Dan sat gently on a folding chair next to the bed. He’d come to this room nearly every day for the last two months. He’d quit everything to spend more time here.

“How are you today, mom?” He slid his hands into hers.

She barely moved. The dementia suffocated her. He wished it was a net or a blanket. Something he could just rip from her chest so she could breathe. Something he could crumple and stuff and cram into the deepest hole he could find. The dementia seemed to come and go in waves. Periods of lucidity alternated with periods of detachment. Some days he was her son, and other days he was a stranger.

Her eyes were glassy and half open. She was awake.

“It’s Danny. I love you mom. Are the nurses treating you well?” He glanced over the room again. Her food tray sat on a cart next to her bed. “Looks like you’re out of ice chips. I’ll get you some more.”

He stood up to leave, unsettled in her place of wasting, when she squeezed his hand tightly.

He’d not felt anything like that in days. “Mom?”

She stirred. “I think I’m going to leave soon, Danny.”

He smiled. They’d had this conversation before, but it was so good to hear her call him by name that he didn’t care.

“Why do you want to leave? It’s nice here. The doctors can take good care of you here.”

“No, Danny. I’m going to leave soon. I’m going to die.”

Dan’ s heartbeats marked the seconds as they passed. Everything moved fast and slow at the same time. His mother’s words eked out of her mouth at a snail’s pace. The world seemed to stop spinning. Yet his blood raced inside of him. In milliseconds his imagination conjured images of a casket, a funeral, family from out town hugging him, a “For Sale” sign in her front yard.

The clock on the wall changed. 4:06 to 4:07. Only a minute had passed.

“What are you saying? There’s still time, mom. The doctors said that the last round of tests were hopeful. There might be some treatment that can keep you out of pain…”

“Danny,” she interrupted. “I love you, and I loved your father. But my time has come, I think. God is calling me home.”

Time. All Dan could think was that time just flew by. He woke, he worried, he prayed, he worked, he worried more, and then he came here. Once he arrived, time seemed to mock him. Hours at her bedside went by like minutes as she slept and he thought about losing her. But when she woke and was not herself the minutes felt like hours. Her demands and incoherent agitations wearied him. Those were minutes he couldn’t wait to have pass.

“Danny, we’ve some time to talk. Is there anything you want to say?”

Tears threatened to spill. “Only that I wish we could do it all again.”

Their conversation lasted hours that night. It was the longest period of lucidity Pauline Wiczewski had experienced in over a month. Dan and his mother talked about his father, they talked about his dating life, and they talked about God. Dan had arrived around four o’clock and didn’t leave until well after 8:00 pm. The hours just slipped by.

At 7:20 the next morning, a nurse found that Mrs. Wiczewski had passed in her sleep. Dan arrived at the care facility only 23 minutes later and wept for a time.

Then, he finally felt the seconds slow.

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