By Sarah M. Glover
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
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.