Heart Imitates Life

June 28, 2004 in Uncategorized

I wrote a paper in college called “A Culture of One”. It won me a scolarship from Microsoft (it was only for men of color, so I wasn’t really going up against much competition), and completely changed my life. I don’t know what I would have done, or where I would be now if I didn’t land the scholarship, and the internships and years of free tuition that came with it. But you wanna know the best part? Wanna guess where I got the idea for the completely life-altering paper from?

“Yes you do. You are a culture of one. Which is no less valid than a culture of one billion.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard to Data, Start Trek: The Next Generation, Episode: Birthright

Ha! Star Trek! Ha!

I’ve always felt like a square peg trying to cram into a round hole. In high school, college, at Trilogy, it never seems quite right. Even the tough times in my life always seem to be unique. Seriously kids, sleeping with your roommate? Who in the world does that? Blogga please… We all have our crap to go through, but I always thought that it would be easier if my problems were more normal. More shared. More “mainstream”. Hm.

I’m in Fort Lauderdale right now, doing what I’ve feared doing for a long time. I’m in the house alone.

Mom went to the ER a couple weeks ago because she was having breathing trouble. In her (and my inherited) truly stubborn ways, she didn’t have anyone call me until days later so that I wouldn’t worry. We talked every day last week, and we both expected her to check out this Monday. But she had another attack. I talked to the doctor in the ICU and he told me that it wasn’t major, and that I didn’t need to come and see her, but Wednesday night and Thursday morning I got calls from relatives saying that she was asking for me, so I bought a ticket on Thursday and flew out. I also bought a ticket for Julie so she could come and be the Natalie Portman to my Zach Braff—to hold my hand while I held my mom’s.

I hate ICUs. Mom was in one back when she had her first heart surgery. It was different though. I was just 18, and when I went to visit her, I was just visiting. Even though I had to take care of paying bills and stuff, everyone understood that I wasn’t ready to take care of everything. With 3 of her sisters in NYC, there was no need for me to. But now, I’m the one that everyone calls. I’m the one that has to photocopy her living will for the nurses at the hospital.

The hardest part for me (because it’s the hardest part for her), is her inability to communicate with us. All of her breathing is done by a respirator, she’s being fed via tube and intravenously, and her normally tiny face, hands, and lips, are swollen from all the steroids. A couple times I’ve walked into her room to find her looking around, waving her hands at people created only by a 12ml/hour drip of Propofol. But I can look away if any of that gets to me. I can step out of the room and walk around a bit. But watching her trying over and over and over and over again to communicate something, anything to me, and seeing the frustration on her face when I keep telling her that I don’t understand, is the hardest part. I can’t turn my back on her when she’s trying to make words. I know she needs me to be there for her. We both know that no one else is going to be patient enough to finally figure out that the sequences of numbers she struggles to make with her shaky hands are actually words—each number mapping to the location of the letter in the alphabet. This unbelievably strong woman who worked herself straight into a heart surgery for me, who came to this country with nothing but somehow gave me everything I needed, and just about everything I wanted, unable to talk, so that the respirator could make her breathe, unable to write, so that the sedatives could make her comfortable.

But I didn’t cry today, so that’s something.

I’ll hopefully be back in Austin later this week.