As is the balance of life, times are not always easy or fair. My mother laid in a hospital bed in a coma. A 17 hour brain surgery had left her brain swollen, putting pressure on her brain stem. They didn’t expect her to live through the early morning hours. Even if she were to survive, they didn’t know how much brain activity she would have. Obviously, it would be hard to ever be prepared for this news, but I was a youngster in my last semester of college.
I was getting a sobering dose of reality and an initiation into adulthood overnight. The doctor was a nice man. I could tell in his eyes that it was hard for him to watch me struggle. He just kept telling me that the tumor was much larger and harder than expected. What he didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter how much he explained it to me, it wouldn’t make sense to me. I had to deal with this news in my own way, just like I couldn’t make my mother wake up through worry, a doctor couldn’t unbreak my heart with an explanation.
That is the physics of life and some rules you just can’t bend. It is during these periods of time when all the breath has been knocked out of you, that you find out who you are and what you are made of. It is also when you find out who you can lean on.
That morning I called my cousin and left a message on her recorder. Getting ready for work, she heard my voice trembling on the recorder and ran to pick it up. Hastily she said, “What’s wrong?” She knew my mother was having her surgery. “It’s bad…” That was all I could get out before I started sobbing uncontrollably. She started asking me over and over, “Do you need me there? I want to be there. All you have to tell me is that you want me there.” That night she hopped on a plane in New England and flew home to sit with me in the silent limbo of a critical care waiting room. Because as I was starting to understand, it isn’t the holding on that is painful, it is the prospect of letting go that hurts the most.
My mother made it through the surgery, but as is traditional in the southern part of the U.S., you show up at the door of a grieving family’s home with food in hand. Most likely, a pound cake or three will show up.
Traditional Southern Pound Cake
1 stick butter
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together; add sour cream. Sift flour and baking soda and salt together. Add to creamed mixture, alternating with eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Serves 8 – 10.