The long cold hallway. Beeping coming from every room. Fluorescent lights every 10 steps… I counted.
I hold my father's hand as we approach the room that she's in. As of right now, she still hasn't woken up. Tears fill my eyes as we step into her room.
My mother's stroke came out of nowhere. She was one of the healthiest people I knew, so for her to have a stroke was a shock to everyone.
When her stroke happened, she changed so much as a person; losing her memories of my father and I, only remembering up until my second brother was a baby, and having short term memory loss. She struggled remembering a lot of what was told to her after 20 minutes. My mother needed constant care.
At the recommendation of the state, it was best for my mother to go live with her mom. As she walked out the door on my 12th birthday to go get medical help, the hole in my heart got a little bigger.
It's been 11 years without my mom. For three years after her stroke, I had to become a helping hand in taking care of her.
But without her in my life, I had to learn everything from my father. My father taught me how to put my hair in a ponytail, shave, and even how to use period products as I grew older.
Finding friends was difficult. Girls seemed to connect through clothing styles or makeup. I never knew much about that until I found friends willing to teach me or watched YouTube tutorials. I've always felt different from other girls and women around me.
While my father gave me a loving and supportive home and a childhood that I can proudly say is mine, I still missed my mother. I missed the experiences we could have had. The trips to the mall to choose my prom dress or the dress I would graduate high school in. The family vacations she's missed to Cedar Point and Florida.
I wish my mother could know me now and be proud of who I am and want to become. I wish she could see me graduate college, start my career, get married, and have a family. She'll never get to meet my kids or my brothers' kids.
The toughest part is not remembering my mother as the person she was before her stroke and hearing all the stories about her. My father always says that I have all the good qualities of her, and that makes me glad, but I can't remember those. As the years go by, the memories fade more and more.
When her stroke happened my mind struggled to remember her. She never remembered me; she would often think I was her sister. These changes caused me to lose more of the memories I had of my mother before her stroke.
My best friend likes to point out that I talk about my mother like I have two of them. In my mind I do. I have my mom before her stroke, the one who gave me life and raised me for nine years. Then I have the mom who I helped take care of for three years - the one who didn't know me and thought I was her younger sister.
The first time my best friend brought up my "two mothers," I realized that I talked like that. I never comprehended that I truly do have two different versions of my mom. My mind automatically split the versions of her without me realizing.
As a child, that was how I comprehended a lot of what was going on. No one sugar coated this situation for me. How can you sugar coat that your mother doesn't know you anymore?
A piece in my heart will always be missing. My mother wasn't there to watch me become the woman I am now or teach me what I need to know about life.
But I learned something along the way.
I learned to appreciate my father more for everything he does. Living a life with a single parent who is so involved makes me see the joy in the little things in life.
It has made me see that the smaller memories are meant to be cherished. Every laugh I have shared with my father and all of our road trips, whether it's to New Orleans or to the store, are cherished memories I'll keep forever.
It's made me see life in a special way where sometimes the time with your loved ones is more important than anything else.
Even though my mother is still alive, I wish I had the opportunity to make more memories with her and cherish them the way I do now with my father.
The missing piece of my mother in my life has brought challenges that I never thought I would go through, but it has made me appreciate the people in my life.
My mother will always be in my heart. Her memories will always make me smile, but the day I stepped through the hospital room doors in tears, I knew I'd have to miss her forever.