Verna Lee Westbury Cribb
She was a woman whose fear of doctors far surpassed any fear of cancer. Although he had known the answer and all of its relevant implications, during one personal moment with his mother, Jeff could not refuse to inquire about why she had not sought help sooner.
“Oh…not now. Please……….not now. This is silly. Why do you ask such silly questions?” Her face: a mask of denial and fear.
“Mom, the doctors are trying to help people. They can’t help you if you don’t give them a chance. You were bleeding out and trying to stop it with a band aid. Even if you were scared shitless, didn’t you think the doctors were a better option than bleeding to death?”
“I always heard it was good to keep blood away from a tumor.” She said with a little, sad smile.
And pity broke Jeff’s heart again. She had spoken the whole sentence with a somber face of sincerity and complete and utter ignorance. Somewhere along the path, she had deconstructed her faculties. She had used her determination and intelligence in the most damaging way to confound real logic and action, replacing both with passive acceptance of the grave destiny of denial.
His mother would suffer as a result of her choices. The cancer would be slowed as a few transient battles were won, but its grip would never loosen too much. Her right arm would become severely disfigured and excruciatingly painful as the cancer damaged blood vessels and lymphatics. Lymph-edema was the technical term to describe the result; swelling which expanded her right arm, three to four times its normal diameter. The arm eventually became so weighted down with the excess fluid that the joint capsule of her shoulder would tear and the nerve roots of the arm would become irreversibly damaged. In the later stages, the arm grew into an enormous disfigured flesh colored club with the only function of providing continuous discomfort.
The pathological fracture of her spine would also stabilize transiently following radiation therapy, but progressive deterioration of the neurological function of her legs was inevitable.
Jeff remembered the first time that he had told her that she needed to consider a wheelchair. Her feeble frame had been planted in a lounge chair at the oncology office while she received chemotherapy through an intravenous port. As she finished the session, he introduced the idea and a mixture of anger and irrational bull-headed determination catapulted her out of her seat. “I don’t need no damn wheelchair. I don’t even know why you would even get an idea like that. It’s just stupid.”
Denying any assistance and mumbling relentlessly, her feet shuffled faster than they had in years. An extremely short stride shuffle jerked her body along a path to the bathroom, not unlike some mechanical child’s toy gone berserk. That dance would be one of her last as her body would continue to progressively betray itself.
In a few weeks, she would be forced into the wheelchair permanently.
I do not know if Verna Lee Cribb ever had an awakening stumble step day herself. I don’t know the majority of non-fictional truth of her childhood, whether it be tragedy or blissful fairy tale, or even the extremes of most of her fictional paranoia. There is much, much more that I do not know and that I will never know about my mother. She opened up to me a few times about her true feelings and her personal history, but those times were rare and she most definitely preferred to avoid such discussion. It is clear to me that my mom did attempt to adapt a different type of survival mechanism than the one that I chose. It seems likely that this occurred because of the typical forces of reverse imprinting that exist between the majority of mothers and their children. But it is also very obvious to me, that for the most part, I am the same creature…or shall we say the same Angel that my mother was.
Verna Lee Westbury Cribb’s fatal mistake was to choose to focus all of her efforts on fighting fractions of her existence, instead of just embracing the perplexing, yet redeeming sum of its all encompassing totality. She was too damned scared, insecure, and unstable to even attempt acceptance of the totality of existence. The concept terrified her. Acceptance would mean that options existed; choices and a possible escape from her most bleak despair. It would mean reengagement with non-fictional hope. And when hope has always fallen short of expectation and thus taken on some mythical shroud of implausible legend, as opposed to remaining the fundamental sacrament for every breath you draw and every purposeful action you perform, you get a little fucking gun shy; you get a little fucking sick of hurting and hurting and hurting from perpetual disappointment in people and their schemes of deceit and their lies of manipulation and their sadistic self-centered distortions of almost everything. You even eventually grow weary and fearful of that special hope that you placed so cautiously and so possessively within the confines of your isolated self. Should you not engage in the same psychological warfare that they do, you learn to take the continuous salvo of their shrapnel of madness and insanity by numbing your essence, through and through, with the complete disavow of hope. Once you concede that all hope is lost forevermore, forever-forevermore, you can never be gutted again with the sword of your own damn optimism. But salvation does not lie in this numbness for it is really a creature of distraction itself; a dead end distraction that is only maintained through a pathological suppressed or subconscious implementation of a self-fulfilling prophecy intended to prove the distorted or delusional perception to oneself that all hope is indeed non-existent. It is a forfeiture of the entire game, the sun, the moon, the stars, love, honor, integrity, and transcendence. You forfeit it all because you are so sick of the rack and torture of playing that game alone and isolated, swarmed incessantly by infinite numbers of leeching abominable soulless charlatans or their oblivious minion puppet counterparts . To fight that army alone, to carry the crushing weight of conviction upon your shoulders, to be crucified again and again, to know lash and thorn and blood and tear, to spend every waking moment in the defiled existence created by that occupying army which has arisen from the abyss , to maintain your fortitude and perseverance all the while on the infinitesimal hope that one day, one fucking way too far off day, you will meet an earnest brother in arms, another renegade, another freak, another dreamer, another who refuses to be converted by the other side and who will stand next to you in total awareness and synergistic balance…..or to choose a palliative numbness through whatever distraction is most feasible; suicide, drugs, sex, children, pets, exercise, vocation or blanket paranoia, that is the question. Verna Lee Cribb chose numbness at some point fairly early in her life and never looked back. She maintained her will to live for quite some time through the lifeline of her children’s “assured love”. When the children finally achieved true independence, her strategy of distraction morphed voraciously to the “unconditional love” of her many pets for a few years. But eventually, mom lost her will to live….it degraded insidiously until the perfect opportunity arose for her to seemingly exit the stage without having to admit her daunting fear and insecurity and neuroses.
Mammary adenocarcinoma would provide my mother the occasion to die without having to publically display her demons in an act of overt suicide. It was still suicide, but a suicide that my mother could somehow deceive herself into believing no one would ever question. Perhaps, she imagined that she could be memorialized into someone she was not. Perhaps, perceiving herself as futile in her search for veritable and transcending union with others of her same energy during her lifetime, she thought it desirable in some twisted alternative of desperation to achieve some semblance of a union even if it was with those of the exact opposite energy in her death. That silly neurotic deceptive delusion of fabricated unification could only be achieved by her continuing to outwardly deny that she was an isolated and tortured soul. Thus, she could not take her own life with obvious suicide. Cancer though, is looked upon very differently than stuffing one’s gullet with pills or tickling one’s tonsils with a shotgun or bloodying the bath water with lacerated arterial exsanguination. Cancer unifies you with…..the masses, with their suffering, with a definite assumed helplessness that lacks blame or escape, with a pity that treks to the extreme pinnacle of emotional sympathy where your essence is rewritten in a pre-mortem eulogy by almost all to define you as the most innocent, undeserving, philanthropic victim. That “pity”, in reality a vector of insane delusion that only serves the purposes of the Crowd, remains so enticing nonetheless, because everyone……and I do mean everyone, even the most balanced and transcendent and spiritually aware, would sometimes really, really, really like a get-out-of-jail-for-free-card or a giant bottle of white-out or a Mulligan or a snare-drum sized number two pencil eraser, one or all, to be able to erase our mistakes or rewrite our weaknesses or have a do-over of our most embarrassing failures or get a chance to just start it all over again. Yet, it is so damn odd…so fucking funny….because everyone does have those things. Everyone gets that opportunity on a continuous basis throughout life, but the majority constantly refuse that genuine grace, they wait until it finally and ultimately expires from mortal limitation, and then and only then, do they somehow begin to profess a desire or profound inclination to rewrite their history and quintessence. You see this more in the collective approach to funerals and death, most concentrated in the form of the horribly inaccurate and sickeningly generic eulogies of indiscriminant praise and glorification, than you do in the actual words of those who are about to meet their maker.
The dying Crowd of Me, Me, Me is a lot like a modern day youth sports team. Everyone gets a trophy…everyone gets to be a superstar….everyone the MVP no matter how hard you actually tried or how hard you practiced on your own. No matter the degree of your sacrifice or your meticulously honed talent or just the simple damn truth…everyone is rewritten and that rewriting is so, so, so much easier than actually training for hours and hours and hours or speaking truth and having to tell some of the kids they just need to find another hobby or simply accepting and explaining the normal order of pack dynamics to all participants. But no one gets called out anymore and madness proliferates exponentially because neurotic manipulation has replaced natural order. Neurotic delusional manipulation: the supreme marketing technique for booster clubs and funeral parlors; everyone knows the truth, but it must not be said, it must not be uttered, for if a little truth escapes to expose a little glimpse of something, of anything, then all truth might escape and then every actor and fraud and charlatan and entity on every stage might be radiated. Everyone might see all of the truth then…..it is much better to avoid that…much, much better. Every corpse gets an MVP trophy and every hypocritical family member jumps on a plane to attend a memorial service for a dear, dear, dear bag of bones painted with lipstick and dappled with perfume that they didn’t take the time to visit in vivo during the last decade. It would seem that mom finally gave in. After watching the cretinous team move up and down the field her whole life from the side-lines, after wondering year after year after year, why everyone in the Crowd was cheering for those barbarians of such limited awareness and why everyone on that team or in the surrounding Crowd also preferred violence and over-dominance and hazing and bullying and fucking, not one, but all of the cheerleaders, each behind all of the others backs, after sitting in the stands alone for all of that time just wanting to have a genuine soul sit down next to her and hold her hand and tell her that they understood and that it was all okay…..that she did not have to play that crazy ass game or sit in that damn mesmerized Crowd, that it was okay for her to be herself, after waiting and waiting and waiting alone for what she perceived to be an eternity, I believe Verna Lee Cribb finally lost hope and gave in, even if it was in the slightest, almost undetectable manner. I believe that on some level she wanted to finally shed her segregation and I believe that somewhere in the depths of her mind she conjectured that maybe her own posthumous MVP trophy would not be such a bad thing to take precedence in her memorialized memory. It was a subtle conversion that could easily be overlooked, but I believe she yielded the option of overt suicide to get that trophy. There is no “I” in team, but that letter and the presence behind it most definitely occurs in suicide.
To be continued…