Robert Roth – Leading Lady
My Mother at 89 pounds, dehydrated, emaciated down from her regular 130 or 140 lbs, looked from the distance like a pre-pubescent girl of maybe twelve. Having used the bedpan that had been shoved under her, she was there trying to wipe herself, her ashen pubic hair and genitals revealed to the entire ER.
She wanted to leave, insisted on leaving. “I’m not going to rot on this street corner. Get me out of this drugstore.”
She said if we did not help her she would go herself; she opened her pocketbook and pulled out a couple of dollars so she could get herself home. She would not let the pocketbook out of her sight. All the time she was in the hospital, the three hospitals really, and the two rehab centers, that pocketbook was always within reach.
My brother stood on one side of the bed and I on the other as we tried to prevent her from getting up and falling. She then started kicking and punching in two directions at once; not flailing out of control punches and kicks, but well placed and ferocious. She was fighting for her life. “I’m not going to rot on this street corner. Get me out of this drugstore,” she kept saying over and over again.
Adrenaline flowing, her body was lithe, coordinated and supple much like the young gymnast she had once been. If we had backed away from the bed she would have gotten off and fallen. I begged a doctor I had known from her nightmare ordeal at Elmhurst to give her something to calm her down. The doctor had actually spoken to me on the 6th floor of Elmhurst a few days after her time in the ER and apologized to me and then to my mother for how she had been treated. With not much prodding he and a nurse came over with a syringe. “I know what you’re trying to do.” My mother squirmed away shrieking, “No you’re not. No you’re not” as they tried to raise her sleeve. She wouldn’t let them. Finally the curtain was drawn. A bloodcurdling scream came from behind the curtain. When they opened the curtain the kicks and punches still came at us precise and perfect but slower and slower and then slower still. Only when she fell completely asleep did they stop.
The next day.
“Why would they choose a skeleton to be the leading lady in their play?” my mother asked as my brother and I walked into her room. At first I thought she was joking but she asked it again.“Why would they choose a skeleton to be the leading lady?”
“You are quite beautiful, you know,” I answered.
“But why now?”
“Don’t knock it,” I said. “You never know when you get your break.”
She was sure a coffee company was bankrolling the film. But had no idea as to why. I had no idea either.
“Why would they make a skeleton into the leading lady for their play?” she asked. Her long hair flowing freely, her gestures broad and dramatic. “Do you think all those doctors will be in the movie too? Or do you think they’re too busy?”
“What about that scene in the drugstore where I was hitting and kicking both of you? Are they going to include that in the movie too?”
“Well, if they want the movie to be a hit they will have to.”
“A mother shouldn’t do that to her children,” she said.
She paused again. And then with more than a little pride, “Were you as impressed as I was with how energized I became?