I looked at my homework, and wrote this instead.

I’m having a problem I very much don’t know what to do about.

See, my mother died about 10 days ago. 6 days before that she collapsed in front of me on the kitchen floor, at about a quarter to midnight. I was at my computer watching episodes of The New Statesman and staying up far too late. I had been to school that morning, my mother having driven me because I was never able to drive myself for various reasons; lack of ownership of a vehicle being an obvious one, but the dynamics of hers and my relationship being such that I was never given offer to learn and I ceased asking half a life ago.

I heard the sound of her fall, and whipped my head around in time to see the tail end of the fall. I flew to her, shook and called out to her, but I could see her eyes were going dark and the gasping breaths she rasped were merely autonomous. She had fallen in the narrowest path between the small kitchen and dining room we have, knocking the wall hanging corded landline telephone off its hook. I stood, picked it up, and reset the dial to call 911. Propping the handset under my jaw, I knelt again over my mother and tried to coax her into trying to breathe while bracing my arms to begin chest compressions.

The 911 operator asked for all the relevant information and coached me through the compressions as well. I got up briefly to unlock and open the front door for ease of access by the paramedic crew and returned to her on the floor to continue compressions. The medic crew arrived within three to five minutes, taking over for me with much better equipment.

I was asked if she was DNR (that is, “Do Not Resuscitate”; a preference made by many that if their heart is to stop they are not to be revived), and I told them “Yes, please do R!” and paced around my computer chair, trying to stay out of the way while also remaining calm.

She was taken to Banner at Thunderbird Hospital as a Code Blue. For 6 days she was monitored and on the final day, the consultation with the neurologist went exactly as I expected. Phrases such as “no meaningful recovery” and “O2 deficiency” and “cognitive brain cell damage”. She had gone too long without oxygen to her brain; her autonomous systems were working (pain response, all other organ functions etc.) but she would not wake up and would not breathe without the respirator. So we let her go.

All this is not in fact the problem I mentioned at the outset of this piece; the problem is that this all happened in the first week of my final class before earning my Associate’s Degree in Medical Occupational Studies. I am supposed to be organizing resumes, researching employers and deciding “what I want to do”. Next week is supposed to start my externship and I haven’t so much as attended lab practice, let alone filed any paperwork. It is honestly all I can do to keep myself entertained, and adjusting to living alone with my father is somewhat awkward. Add on top of all that, the absolutely imperative need to acquire my driver’s license before I can go anywhere at all on a set schedule. I have not managed to master driving skills over the space of a weekend, while all this emotional and household turmoil is going on and while also somehow managing to focus on homework I simply do not have the heart for yet.

It has only been 10 days. I cannot process through the stages of grief in the space of two weeks. I don’t know how to convince my instructors to give much of any lenience. I have in fact been given 0% attendance score on the day my mother died. Even if I turn in all my homework at its best quality, I will be graded as late. These two courses (the resume/interviews and externship) are required courses and cannot be failed without failing the entire program. If I do not graduate I will owe the Federal Government something like $41,000. I have never earned more than $11,000 in one year, once.

What would help me most would be the ability to simply move the course to the next available mod. I need to get my driver’s license before I can commit to any employer. I need to bond with my father for a while. I need to process this grief before I am able to sell myself in an employment interview. I have asked for this and been told “Well if it was the first week you could…” and when I said “It happened in the first week…?” and simply got a shrug as response; apparently I should have arranged for this earlier, somehow?

So I am stuck. All my work is expected to be submitted as if nothing happened. I sat down here, tonight, to look at the homework. I ended up writing this instead.

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1 Response to I looked at my homework, and wrote this instead.

  1. There are things that must be done, things that can be done, and the rest has to wait. Take a breath and figure out what should be in which category, then just do them… like an automaton if you must. Keep moving forward. When I find my life in a mess, there are two choices: move forward or wait for the inevitable worsening of the mess. We each do what we need to do when the time comes to do it… or not. Calmly speak to the dean, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I don’t know what life or health insurance covers in your case but don’t be afraid to use it.

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