Earlier today I thought of a funny idea that I wanted to write down before I forgot. I grabbed the first notebook I saw and started turning to a blank page. This is the last piece I had written. I don't remember writing it. I think I must have written it in the hospital the day before Mom passed away, but I just don't remember for sure.
I used to think true fear was Gmork.
Gmork is a talking wolf with glowing green eyes. He appears in The Neverending Story. For most of the movie he's a shadow pursuing Atreyu. When they finally meet, Gmork starts to talk. He serves The Nothing, the force devouring the fantasy world of Fantasia. Every time I watched the movie I couldn't watch that part. I would close my eyes, but hearing his words still chilled my heart. I would stick my fingers in my ears, telling my sister to let me know when Gmork was dead.
Just two nights ago I watched that scene again, hoping to exorcise the green-eyed demon that had hounded me for a quarter of a century. I thought it had worked, that I was finally over fearing Gmork.
Night fell. I went to bed. I had to get up to use the bathroom, but I couldn't move. I needed a flashlight to make sure Gmork wasn't there, waiting to open his eyes and leap for my throat.
As it turns out, Gmork isn't fear.
Fear, true fear, is walking into Room 127 to find my mother lying in bed, tubes entering and exiting, violating her appearance. Her head to one side, mouth open in a silent plea for help that I cannot give. Bile flows through a tube from her abdomen, slowly filling a 32 oz plastic mug.
Her eyes struggle to open when I say, "I'm here."
Her mouth works. To say what, I don't know. Her lips are so dry that the skin sticks and stretches as if her mouth had disappeared completely.
Fear is watching her eyes clench in pain, a moaning cry wisping from her throat as she begins to hiccup, the movement tugging at her recently opened abdomen, tearing at stitches that haven't even begun to form scars.
Her left arm begins to lift, her hand flapping uselessly. She wants to lift it to her nose, to pull the tube inserted there, but she doesn't have the strength.
She had a stroke, a big one, in the left hemisphere of her brain. A stroke so big it jumped the divide and spilled into the right half.
The doctors are worried about swelling. They offer to show me, and my siblings, pictures.
Fear is leaving Room 127 after she has been dosed with Dilotid. Her erratic movements cease and she starts to slip off to sleep.
I tell her I love her. I say I'll come back to visit.
As I turn to exit I feel my heart contract and it has to work harder to beat.
Gmork could wait in the shadows and I wouldn't care. His glowing green eyes and snarling manner of speech no longer matter, for I have learned true fear.
I am terrified that death is waiting to escort my mother away and I'm not ready.
True terror is getting a call at work that says, "You need to come to the hospital. Now."
I know what's going to happen. I also know there's nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is be there for my mother and my siblings.