Chapter 1 – The rip off
Mother (with a weak voice): Matteo?
I was asleep. But I was taking care of her so, even though you could barely hear her, I woke up.
Me: Hey. Are you awake? Do you want breakfast?
It was the 1st of May, a day of holiday and celebrations. I was at home with her, and she was dying.
Maybe it seems rude if I just state it like that but I knew she was, so. By the way, she had cancer.
Strong word, cancer; some people just can’t bear it and try to find a more gentle way to define something that is physically eating you, but actually, you can’t. There are many types of cancer, from bad to very bad, but still there’s only a single name for it and that is cancer. It’s just a word, it could be your fucking zodiac sign, so the faster you accept that, the better.
This actually worked for me—I mean, accepting the word—but it didn’t for my mother.
Her doctor used to tell me not to use that word in front of her and so I never did, because they wanted to treat it as though it were a normal disease, and I really understood why, but trust me, it is difficult not to think about that word when you are on chemo. Or when you are with someone that is going through a chemotherapy, but this is another story.
At least my mother was born under the sign of Aquarius.
I got up very slowly, I was tired and weak, hadn’t really slept that night. I went to her bedroom and saw that she was awake and asking for something, so I acted automatically; I had been in that situation so many times before that it had become like a simple procedure. Put a pillow behind her back, opened the window; it was sunny, or this is what I remember. I went to the kitchen, took a yoghurt, I think, prepared the shitty nutritional supplement, cocoa flavoured, and went back to her to try to make her eat something.
Mother: I’m not hungry.
Me: I know, but you have to eat something, do you want a cookie?
At that time, my mother really liked these wonderful cookies called Zaetti, especially some that came from a bakery in a small town outside of Padova. I had some that day so I took a couple.
I put everything on the small table beside the bed and helped her to eat a single cookie and a couple of spoonfuls of the yoghurt.
Me: I’ll leave everything here, you’ll eat it later. Should we change the diaper?
Mother: I don’t know.
Me: I think we should.
In the last few she couldn’t make it to the bathroom so I had to help her, with a sponge. That was one of the most difficult parts, but she must have done the same for me many times when I was a needy toddler and I’m sure that my diapers were worse.
Me: Do you want to watch a movie?
Me: Do you want to listen to some music?
Me: Ok I’ll leave your book here, I have to do some work so I’ll be in the other room, ok?
Mother: mmmh mmmh…
I just stood up and went to the other room. Took a deep breath, opened the laptop, and started trying to keep my mind busy. I opened skype and saw that some friends were online, so I started chatting a bit, called my girlfriend, and started working.
In this part of the morning I really can’t remember any specific events. I was just sitting and waiting, a look towards my mother every now and then, she fell asleep very quickly so I was not worried. And I was just waiting for the in-home nurse to come at 2PM.
Suddenly everything happened very fast. I heard a strange noise, I realised that it was my mother’s voice but it was not a sound or a word—was she calling me? Had she actually said something? No, it was more like a fast intake of breath, something strange. So, I went to the bedroom.
She was lying in exactly the same position as when I had left her before, but her eyes were open. She was not looking at me or at anything else, she was staring at nothing. I tried to call her a couple of times, I touched her on the legs, but she didn’t respond and she looked frightened.
People say that your life really does flash before your eyes before you die and that day I saw my mother’s life flashing in front of hers, and by her expression, it was fucking scary, trust me.
I tried to wake her up, I called her many times, I touched her but every time more lightly;
then I froze. I don’t know for how long, but I just froze, looking into my mother’s eyes
In a moment like this I think you just realize that you have to do something and you don’t think anymore, you just do what‘s necessary.
But this is a story for another time.
That day was simply the day, the 1st of May, 2012, when things changed.