Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success. Everyone had gone home, and I was washing the dishes. Manolo was outside putting away all the tables and chairs we had used for the party.
“Are you going to take me?” Mom asked. She was sitting in the breakfast nook holding Pia, my nine-month-old daughter. She was ready for bed, but Mom had wanted to carry her a little longer.
We had planned to go to Disney World that weekend and Mom wanted to go. We would leave Pia with my mother-in-law because we wanted it to be a memorable trip for our six-year-old son.
“Mom, I’ve told you. We’re not sure if we’re going.”
“You just don’t want to take me.”
“It’s not that. I just think it’s going to be hard for you. There’s a lot of walking, and I don’t think you will be able to do it.”
“Of course, I can. I feel fine,” Mom insisted.
I wished Manolo would finish and take her home. Mom was getting on my nerves. She had been after me for weeks and as the day of the trip drew near, she had become even more insistent and demanding. I noticed Mom bring one hand to her head and close her eyes.
“What’s wrong? You’re going to drop Pia.”
“I feel like everything just blacked out.”
“You shouldn’t have drunk wine. Not with all the medication you’re taking.” I grabbed Pia from her and walked to the nursery.
“I’m fine. I just had one glass.” I heard Mom say.
I knew it. Mom isn’t healthy enough to spend hours walking around Disney. We can’t take her.
Later that evening, Manolo gave Mom a ride home, and I promised to call her to let her know of our plans.
“I’ll be ready. I know what I’m going to wear and just need to put everything in my overnight bag. I really want to see Disney. Please let me go with you,” Mom pleaded. Her last attempt to convince me to take her.
The next day, I worked half-day and drove to my in-laws’ house to pick up the kids. We had decided to skip the Disney trip and do it at a later time. I arrived at my mother-in-law’s house and, as usual, found her sitting by the kitchen counter with three other ladies.
“That was a great party last night. We were just talking about it,” my mother-in-law said. She got up to fix me lunch.
“It was, but I’m exhausted. We decided not to go to Disney. I’ve got to let Mom know.”
“I just talked to her around noon. She was finishing cleaning the house and was going to watch her soap opera. She’s excited about the trip.”
“I don’t know how she dares to go with her legs swelling up like they do,” one of the ladies added.
“I’ve never been, but from what they tell me, I don’t think I’ll ever go. Too many people and too much walking. I’m too old for that,” another one of the ladies chimed in.
“We were thinking about it but changed our minds,” I said. I didn’t add that part of the reason we weren’t going was because of Mom. Jose and I had argued about it, and he had insisted that she couldn’t go. I knew he was right, but I had pleaded her case, hoping he’d change his mind.
I reached for the phone and called Mom. After several rings, I hung up and sat down to have lunch.
“She didn’t answer. I will call her later.”
I chatted with ladies for a bit and went home. I called Mom several times throughout the afternoon, but she didn’t answer. Around four, I called her neighbor.
“Hi Martha, it’s Ana. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Thank you. Diana told me this morning about the Thanksgiving party. She said it was great.”
“Yes, we had lots of fun and way more people than we had expected, but we had plenty of food.”
“Diana is excited about going to Disney. I can’t believe she’s never been after living in Florida for so many years. I thought everyone had been there.”
“Well, we changed our minds and are going to leave the trip for another day,” I explained briefly; otherwise, I’d be on the phone with Martha for hours.
“Do you think you could go and ask Mom to check her phone? I’ve been calling her since noon, and she’s not answering. I think something may be wrong with the phone.”
“Sure, I’ll go over there right now. I’m glad you called before it got dark because it’s a little cool, and I don’t like to go outside after taking a shower. The last time I did, I got so sick I thought I was going to die.”
“Yes, you have to be careful. Please ask Mom to call me. If her phone’s not working, will you please call me and let me know? Tell her I’ll call her tomorrow.”
“Sure, maybe she left the receiver off the hook or something. I’ll go right now.”
I was cutting up some potatoes for dinner when the phone rang.
“Hi Mom, where have you been? I’ve been calling you,” I barked into the receiver.
“Ana, it’s Martha. Something is wrong.”
“I figured her phone wasn’t working.”
“No, it’s Diana. She’s lying on the couch. I can see her through the screen door, but she doesn’t answer. The TV is still on, and it’s very loud. Maybe she’s sleeping and can’t hear me.”
“Yeah, that’s probably it.”
“I think you should call 911.”
Her words jolted me. I dialed 911 and gave them my mother’s address. I rushed next door and asked my neighbor to watch the kids until Manolo got home. I grabbed my keys and ran out the door. She probably took a sleeping pill, or maybe she’s not feeling well from all the eating and drinking from the day before.
I turned the corner to my mother’s house and saw the flashing red lights. There was a fire truck parked in front of the house. Good, they’re here. She’s in good hands.
I got out of the car and saw Martha standing in the yard, wearing only her housecoat. She’s going to catch a cold. She didn’t say hello.
The screen door had been taken off the frame. That’s strange. Why did they have to do that? It’s going to be a hassle to get it repaired.
My mother’s sandals, a Cuban mop, and bucket sat by the door. She must have finished cleaning and laid down for a nap.
I walked into the living room, the TV still on but now with no sound. The phone was on the bookshelf with the receiver securely on top. The picture of my quinceañera hung on the wall. When is she ever going to take that down? I’m thirty years old.
Why are all these guys standing around? Why aren’t they helping my mother?
Mom is lying on the sofa, her praying hands folded under her right cheek. She looks like an angel. So peaceful. Then I notice the large dark stain on her neck. She’s not responding. I move her, I call her. Wake up, Mom, wake up. I beg her.
“I’m sorry. She must have passed several hours ago. There was nothing we could do,” one of the paramedics moves me away from her. I stare at her lifeless body.
“I have to call my sister.” I look blankly at the paramedic and walk to the phone.
“Hello, Linda. Mom thought we were going to Disney.”