This is my last journal entry. Mrs. Loeb wants to collect the journals early because she says that she’s going to need a couple of weeks if we expect her to read through them all before the end of the school year. So, I guess that this is the end.
I’m not sure, yet, if I’m going to start a new journal. I kind of feel like I don’t really need to keep a journal anymore. But, who knows? Maybe the reason that I feel so much better about my life today than I did the week of first my journal entry is a direct result of the fact that I kept this journal in the first place. In which case, it would probably be a good idea to keep on writing. Wouldn’t it?
This week’s big news is that I called Elise. I don’t know what I expected, exactly, but I had to do it. At first, she didn’t have much to say. Eventually, though, she reluctantly began to tell me the story of her mother’s death.
Apparently, Charlotte had been having trouble some health issues for a while. But, for some reason, the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Months passed without their being able to make a satisfactory diagnosis. Then, a few days after Thanksgiving (the last time that I saw Charlotte alive) they finally came to the conclusion that she had an unusual type of throat cancer. Unfortunately, because it had taken so long to diagnose her illness, it was too late to save her. The cancer had already spread. Charlotte was going to die.
At this point, Elise became bitter, and she practically spat at me through the phone as she recounted her mother’s final months of life.
It seems that Charlotte had been completely opposed to the way that my parents had handled my mother’s illness and the way that they shared or, rather, did not share information. She thought that they had been wrong to stay silent; wrong to not tell me (and my brother) the truth about what was going on. So, as a result, Charlotte went overboard in the other direction. For months, Elise explained, she was inundated with nothing but death.
First, it was family counseling. Then, it was individual counseling. Then, it was group counseling. Then, it was in-home hospice care.
Every conversation that Elise had with her mother for over four months centered around the fact that she was going to die. Elise told me that it got to the point that she just wanted to go running, kicking and screaming, from the house every time her mother opened her mouth to speak. She started to have dreams where she danced on her mother’s grave in exhilaration and relief. Then, she’d wake up crying, overpowered by guilt and grief.
“All anyone wanted to talk about was death and dying,” Elise moaned, “and all I wanted to talk about was anything else.”
“I’ve spent the past six months wishing that I’d known more about what was going on with my mother and her illness; wishing that I’d had the chance to say goodbye,” I finally whispered.
“And I’ve spent every minute since my mother’s death wishing that a car accident or a heart attack had killed her; something sudden, so that I could have at least enjoyed being with her before she’d died,” Elise whispered back.
And, then, we both began to cry. Because, at that moment, we realized that it really wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest if our mothers had handled things differently.
When it comes right down to it, there just isn’t any easy way to lose a parent.
“I have to go,” Elise finally said, sniffling.
“OK,” I said, “I’ll see you at camp.”
“I’m not going back this year.”
At that moment I knew that, in all probability, this would be the last conversation that Elise and I would ever have.
Our mothers had always been the link. No mothers, no link. We live too far away from one another. We don’t drive yet. And, in all honesty, our lives are moving in different directions. We’re taking different paths.
Ironic, isn’t it? Soul mates. “Kindred Spirits”. Two friends in similar circumstances. And, yet, rather than being drawn together, we’re being pushed apart. The loss is just too painful; the reminders, unwanted.
And, so, we adapt. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Adapting.
Sure, I’d love for my mother to be alive. But, the truth is, at this point, I really don’t need a mother anymore. And, soon, neither will Elise. Like many members of the animal kingdom, I’ve adapted to my “motherless” environment, and so will Elise. We’re survivors.
Does that sound odd? Let me try to explain.
Everybody knows that frogs are amphibious creatures who make their homes in ponds, and spend their days catching flies and living all-around normal frog lives, right? Well, there are some frogs who don’t live in ponds; frogs that don’t live normal frog lives.
There are frogs that live in deserts. I have no idea how they got to the desert in the first place, but they are definitely there now. And they are able to survive the hot, dry desert conditions because, unlike the average frog, these frogs sweat just like mammals. If they didn’t sweat, they’d die.
There are also frogs who make their homes in the Canadian forests. In order to survive the terrible Canadian winters, these forest frogs actually freeze solid for months at a time. Then, in the spring, they thaw out without destroying any of their tissues or internal organs.
Incredible, isn’t it?
It all comes down to “Survival of the Fittest.” If you haven’t learned this in science class, or if you can’t remember what you learned, “Survival of the Fittest” is a scientific theory devised by the Naturalist Charles Darwin and explained in his book, The Origin of Species. According to Darwin, we live in an ever-changing environment. And, as a result, in order to survive, every member of the animal kingdom (including humans) has had to become ever-changing as well. Unfortunately, not every person (or animal) is capable of modifying herself, and the ones that can’t adapt, die.
The sweating desert frogs, and the frozen Canadian frogs survive in their radically different environments because they’ve been able to adapt their characteristics to fit in with their surroundings. And, so have I. And so will Elise.
We’re just two girls with dead mothers, that’s all.