Personal Essay

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By Elyse Austin

Yet another alarm goes off.
It’s 3 A.M.
I’m rubbing my eyes in disbelief.
How is it that an 18-year-old is taking care of her dying mother in hospice care. Freshly
graduated from high school, having dealt with the pain for much longer. My mom’s illness
formally started in March of 2021, kidney failure, but her problems started long before.
Middle school. Freshly turned single mother with two twins entering their first year of sixth
grade. Her husband just left her high and dry (and drunk). Well, great minds think alike, she
turned to the bottle as well. Her drug of choice, wine.
Guilting my brother and I to fill her tall glass. Complaining that we won’t because she’s not even
a drunk. She does everything for us. The least we could do was help her slowly succumb to her
disease. Insults, screaming, leaving. Forced to take care of myself. Forced to take care of my
brother. For who else would?
It wasn’t going to be my father. He was off who knows where. Calling scantily and popping up
with his mother from time to time. It wasn’t going to be my grandparents. For they were no
longer of this earth. It wasn’t going to be extended family or family friends as they were never
truly kept in the loop, after all, my mom could keep a secret close to the breath. Certainly not my
mother, for her façade only projected to the outer circle, not actually providing the necessary care
for her children. Tumbling down, the responsibility fell on me. The weight of emotional turmoil
of not just mine own emotions, but those of my mom and brother as well.
Making sure I get the right ingredients while grocery shopping. Making sure my homework is
done. Making sure I stay fit for my sport. Making sure my brother is doing his homework.
Making sure he is emotionally sane. Making sure my mother has eaten and is well rested. Falling
apart at the end of the night: tears streaming down my face, blood streaming down my arms.
Resenting her came naturally. As now, she was just a figure who only existed after the hour of 5
P.M. Beckoning me to fill her glass just one more time: me knowing it won’t be the last. Fading
into the shadows of depression and anxiety, feelings my mom knew all too well, but could never
truly reveal.
Senior year. Mom getting increasingly sick. Me getting increasingly worried. Why is she not
seeking help? Why does she not want to stick around? Finally, approaching the crossroads of
calling the ambulance. Not coming home. Weeks on end. A moment to breathe.

Then coming home. Appointments, school, sport. That was what life was. Not a moment to
breathe except for in the space of my room. Walls closing in, lavender was supposed to be
calming, but now all I could do was scream. Frustration rising. Why was this happening to me?
Why did I deserve this?
Mom back in hospital after struggling to breathe. Moving from hospital to hospital. Transplant.
That was the only option left to save her life, for her kidneys and liver were no longer functional.
Two main problems arise. One: my mother was too sick to survive a surgery. Two: she had to
admit she was an addict.
“But I was functional!”
“Your dad was worse!”
“I did not drink THAT much!”
Endless tears being shed.
How would I make it through this situation either way? Taking care of my mother,
single-handedly, after an organ transplant—or—taking care of my mother at the end of her life.
The options were lifeless. I was supposed to be having fun. I was supposed to be living new
experiences. Instead, I was growing up at an accelerated rate.
Longing for home, as the natural homebody she was, my mother decided on hospice care. A
decision everyone tried to talk her out of, but availed to no success. The responsibility of
medication, communicating with nurses, and emotions in my hands. The weight of the world felt
so big. When will the time come?
Yet another alarm goes off.
It’s 6 A.M.
Another dose of morphine.
Sitting down with her and calling family.
This was the last alarm.

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