As our small following of fans may notice, our company To Shibalba has not released a film in quite a while. It’s not to say we haven’t had a narrative short brewing that is incredibly beyond the technical aspirations of past films we have made, but thats not why I am writing this blog. It’s coming one of these days. I could blame it on the fact that we underestimated the utter size and scope that an albeit small but full scale film festival will do to creating new film time, but again, thats not why I am writing this blog. I am writing this blog because we have indeed made another film, and you can see it tomorrow, for Mother’s Day.
All of my work is in one way influenced by the death of my mother. Now it might be about heroin addiction, killer turkeys, or viewmaster toys, but all of those ideas stem from that massive void that was left in my life when I was 14. The truth that most people don’t know is that I have actually been filming things my entire life. First my friends and I made wrestling films first with a full size VHS camcorder. These translated into “F&B Comedy Time” in 1998 with many of the friends (aka wrestlers) I hung with. This was a favorite of my moms, and theres even a few ‘hard’ edits where my mom made me cut out the swearing. “The Turkey” which I wrote in 1994 was never intended to be a film due to the lack of viable turkey actors, but being it was my moms favorite story, we decided to make it in 2015. My mom influences all my work to this day, but it’s the film we made in 1999 that remained an enigma of sorts.
My mom was diagnosed in the summer of 1998 with a rare form of cancer. I was the last of the kids to find out about her being sick, but I was the surprise baby and quite a bit younger than my brother and sister, so it makes sense I guess. I happened to talk to her one evening when she was half asleep and noticed her hair was coming off her head. I could see what looked to be a wig. I asked her what was going on and she got very defensive which was unlike my mom. She sat up and said “leave me alone, I’ve been stressed, I lost some of my hair”. I was baffled, I cried and was angry for not knowing about this. The next few days of 8th grade were awkward, I kept thinking “how was she that stressed to lose her hair”, “It couldn’t really be cancer”, and a never ending array on ongoing thoughts that couldn’t possibly end in my mom dying. My dad said the same thing, “she’s really stressed, don’t stress her out more”. A few days later we talked about it. I remember sitting in the living room and my dad sitting there being the man he still is today; supportive, caring, and willing to do anything for those he loves. My mom said she was sick, she was fighting and they thought she would beat it. She tried to play it off as it was very curable, but I could tell she didn’t really believe it. The truth is the moment she found out what kind of cancer she had she knew it was going to kill her.
The next 9 months were a whirlwind. My mom fought the cancer with everything she had. One morning early before school, it all got really real. It still plays out like a nightmare in my mind. My dad and I had been getting up early and swimming, so I figured thats why the phone in my room was ringing at 5:15 am. I tried to sleep through it, but when I heard the voicemail I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. It was my dads voice, desperate and afraid saying…. “Andy…. ANDY……ANDY……please help me….PLEASE……”. I found my dad on the floor with my mom, she was bleeding from her mouth. My dad was teared up and didn’t know how to help her. My mom mumbled and blood came out her mouth as she tried to talk. My dad somehow kept talking to her, “Diane, it’s ok, it’s ok, your ok, your going to be ok”. I’m crying, I don’t what the hell to do.
“Help me get her up into bed”, my dad said, “I already called the ambulance”.
“What…… what…… happened” I replied.
“She had another seizure, a big one”
We got her up into the bed as she was somewhat regaining movement. I remember rubbing her foot into the carpet trying to wake her up, it didn’t do much. The ambulance came and took her. I’ll never forget when they took her out on the stretcher and her eyes locked with mine, full of fear and blood in her mouth. It was the first time I’d really seen her scared, and I’m sure that image will never leave my mind.
I went to River District Hospital and she was awake and alert at that time, apologizing I had to see that.
“Andy your so strong for helping your dad, I’m so sorry you had to see that happen” she said. There’s a million of those selfless moments she had in those last months, thats just one example.
Everything changed that day, they gave her 3 months or less to live. She came home late March to die. She declined risky surgery or any more surgery attempts at all. She wanted to die at home with her mind and with her family.