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By Sarah M. Glover
(Page 3 of 3)

I will be leaving soon; my sister-in-law will replace me in a few hours, another caregiver in our family’s round-robin of cancer care. Our good-bye is difficult. Both mothers, we are fighting to maintain a positive outlook. Everything will be fine. We will be together in Maine this summer and sit on her deck and eat Tony’s donuts with our morning coffee and watch the kids run around the back yard. Yet I pause in the doorway, gripped by fear. Like a child, I want to run to her and kiss her; something I know is verboten. I have been washing my hands like some modern day Lady Macbeth since I got here. The thought of the plethora of germs one kiss could impart is staggering. I can move neither forward nor backward. “I love you,” I say to her. “You know that?” Her answer is soft; her voice struggles to hold on to itself. “Yes.”

I force myself forward to the elevator and headlong into the rental car. A forgotten item at the Pete Gross House causes me to detour off of the highway on my way to the airport. I lock the door of our apartment one last time. I will not be coming back. My mother-in-law has been given one bite of the apple—no more.
Standing there in the empty hallway, keys in hand, the feeling of abdicating control haunts me. Who will manage her Sisyphean load of pills? Who will make sure she doesn’t fall? I have become comfortable in an uncomfortable world and suddenly find myself desperate to stay.

The door of the apartment behind me opens. I freeze. A singular sound stands there, waiting, adjusting the photos on the door. Man, woman, child, I know not. They disappear toward the elevator with the sound of their footsteps. Finally, I lift my head, guilty for it. I should have introduced myself. I should have wished them success. I should have gazed upon their face with hope.

But I can hold only one hope in my heart. To take on more would require more than I have to give. I will hope for my mother-in-law. I will tack that hope among thousands of others—the scenes of our life together, the countless snapshots of my love for this woman that lie within my heart alone.

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