o, I finally came out to my mother.
'Mom,' I said, 'I'm gay.'
My mother was lying in a hospital bed, heavily sedated and breathing on a respirator. I looked at the machine clocking her vital signs. Her blood pressure didn't shoot up following my announcement. So, I told her again.
'Mom, I'm a lez-bee-anne,' I said, giggling madly. It was the first time I laughed since my mother was rushed to the emergency room a week before. My dad and I had spent the past several days pacing the halls of intensive care, wringing our hands as the news turned increasingly grim.
But, then, a ray of hope appeared at my mother's deathbed in the form of a stunningly beautiful and chillingly remote pulmonologist.
'Ms. Parello,' she said, regarding me coolly, refusing to soothe my nerves with any hint of warmth. She seemed to be missing certain character traits that make a person human. Oooh, she was just my type. I brushed the tears from my eyes and fluffed my hair hopefully. 'I'd like to talk to you about your mother's condition.'
'Let's do it over cocktails,' I said, shoving the respirator out of the line of vision so the doctor could admire my fetching figure, which had benefited from an onset of anorexia brought on by worry over my mother. 'Does the hospital cafeteria serve Martinis?'
The doctor ignored me ( which only made me love her more ) and curtly announced that my mother was going to be fine. I swooned as I watched her white coat flapping out of the room. And that's when I told my mother I was gay.
My mother is the most industrious person I know. She is happiest when she is accomplishing four tasks at once. So, I knew that she'd appreciate my attempt to multi-task in the ICU-demonstrating that I could both grieve and flirt inappropriately at the same time.
Although this is the first time I had 'officially' come out to my mother, it would come as no surprise ( assuming she had heard my announcement through the Judy Garland cocktail of morphine and assorted opiates dripping through the IV into her bloodstream ) . For years she has acknowledged my sexuality through a complicated vocabulary of sighs.
She would drag me to Saks, for instance, and insist that I try on a St. John Knit dress. I'd slip into it and immediately push up the sleeves, causing the saleslady to rip the dress off me in a panic. As the saleslady returned the dress to the safety of its hanger, my mother would shake her head sadly, and exhale deeply through her nose. Translation: My daughter, the lesbian, will never appreciate fine knits.
Or she'd casually mention that she watched an episode of 'Primetime Live' and isn't Diane Sawyer wonderful? And I'd respond, 'She certainly is,' trying hard not to drool. My mother would stare at me for a moment in stunned silence, and she'd drop her eyes and emit a short blast of air from her mouth. Translation: My daughter, the lesbian, has some type of sick fantasy life that revolves around Diane Sawyer. ( Happily, all true! )
After I learned that my mother would recover, I feared that the trauma to her lungs would damage her ability to communicate through sighs. But the first thing she did upon waking was to point a disapproving finger at my hair and sigh heavily into her oxygen mask. Translation: If my daughter, the lesbian, ever hopes to woo my pulmonologist ( or Diane Sawyer, for that matter ) , she'd better get herself a decent haircut.