The last time I saw my mother was a few nights before her passing. She was in a nursing home on Long Island that my sister and I had arranged to send her to after she was discharged from St. John’s Hospital on Queens Boulevard and it was obvious she was never going home again. By this time the cancer had devastated her, and it had spread to parts of her body that the Doctor probably thought best I didn’t need to know about.
A few months earlier from this final visit, I had been sitting with her at the oncologist’s office on Junction Boulevard when her diagnosis was first made clear to me. After the Doctor spoke to my mother, he was from India and I remember him being very gentle and kind, my mother left the room and he asked me to wait. He told me softly, and calmly, that my mother had six months to live. In retrospect I could have set my watch by this news. Upon hearing his words, I remember tears welling up in my eyes as they do now as I write this. I remember driving my mother home and our silence in the car. I tried turning on the radio, I thought classical music would help, but it was one of those moments when the classical station choose to play a modern atonal piece by one of the Bergs, Alban or Schoen, and my mother, who was lost in her thoughts, became irritated and told me to turn it off as the violins were “screeching”.
I dropped her off at home, the house I was raised in on 53rd Avenue in Elmhurst and where she continued to live after my father died ten years prior and my sister and I had long moved out. I waited in the car until she opened the front door. I had to return back to work in the city. I recall her standing in the doorway waving to me. I forced a smile and waved back. I knew the six month diagnosis, but she did not. My sister and I could never tell her. We just let nature take the story where it needed to go.