Let It Be

My mother in her bed.  Photo by Callen Harty.

My mother in her bed. Photo by Callen Harty.

Three times in the last month or so I had intentions of driving to my hometown to see my mother and all three times the weather conspired to instill enough fear in me to keep me from the trip. I feel guilty about it in some ways and in other ways I feel relief because it is so hard to see her in her current condition. She is about a 70 or 80 pound weakling now and can’t even get out of her bed. The last time she tried she fell to the floor. Fortunately she hasn’t tried again since that time. She eats sparingly and her mind comes and goes. Conversation can be incredibly hard because of memory issues, repetition, and an inability to find the right words.

Hospice has been coming in for nearly a year already and about half a year ago she was already given last rites. Still, she keeps hanging on even though it must be very difficult for her. We can’t know why she’s hanging on and we can’t predict when her body or God will decide it is finally time. For the longest time I thought she must have unfinished business to take care of but her mind is so rarely good these days I can’t imagine that she would even know what that business is any more. Maybe she’s afraid of what’s next. Maybe she doesn’t want to leave the comfort of loved ones. Maybe . . . maybe I simply don’t know. And it’s silly of me to even try to guess. Maybe the mystery of this is beyond my comprehension. To be blunt I don’t know what she has to live for at this time, but I am not in her mind and cannot know. Maybe she is finishing up unfinished business in her head or in prayer. There is no way to know. So my choice is to get stressed over trying to figure it out or to just let it go. I have chosen to let it be and to be okay with that.

My sister told me the other day that last week was bad. Mom goes through some rough weeks and some good days here and there. Apparently she wanted to get out of bed, but she really doesn’t have the strength to walk any more, even with a walker and someone helping her, and she doesn’t have the strength to push herself to try to get out of bed and fall again either. With assistance she can still walk with some difficulty but it uses up precious energy reserves and leaves her absolutely exhausted, and all it gives her is a slightly different view of an incredibly small part of the world for a short while. After my sister convinced her to stay where she was the other day she apparently got a little irritated and started saying things like, “I might as well be dead.”

It’s hard to hear that she is saying things like that but honestly I believe I would feel the same way in that position. And yet I think I would somehow hang on, too. I can be very much like her in some ways. In fact our entire family has a history of being very strong and very stubborn and nobody else is going to tell any of us when it’s time to let go. A person has to arrive at those moments in their own time and in their own way. I have chosen to be okay with that, too. When my mother is ready she will let go. In the meantime I will let it be.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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