ODYSSEY OF THE MIND
Ruth walked up the few small steps that led up to Catherine Tyler's house. Was this all a dream? Was Rose REALLY here? It didn't seem possible. She had been longing to hold her daughter again for so long, and now she was finally going to get a chance.
Ruth knocked on the wooden door and waited for a reply. At last it opened.
Catherine smiled the instant she saw who was standing there. "I'm so glad you made it here all right. Please come in. How was your trip?"
"Fine, thank you. I'm sorry to be rude, but I cannot wait any longer. Where is Rose? She IS here?"
"Yes, yes, of course." Catherine led Ruth up the staircase and into Rose's bedroom. "I'm afraid she is still sleeping. I'll leave you two alone now." Ruth nodded her head, and Catherine left the room, closing the door behind her.
Ruth stared at her daughter. She looked so peaceful, even though her hair was a mess and she looked like she hadn't had a decent night's sleep in weeks. Ruth sat down beside the bed, patiently waiting for Rose to awaken. She seemed just fine, but she had gone through so much...could she really be fine after that? Ruth forced herself to stop thinking like that. This was her daughter. No matter what she was like, she was coming home.
Suddenly, Rose stirred and opened her eyes.
'Oh God, not again,' Rose thought. She had been through these hallucinations twice already. She didn't need it a third time. She shut her eyes tightly hoping that the image in front of her might disappear. She opened her eyes, and her mother was still there. When the image in front of her spoke, she thought she was going to have a panic attack.
"No, I'm just seeing things again. I thought I was finally better...please, I don't want to go through this again! I can't!"
"Rose, it is really me. It's Mama." She reached out and took Rose's hand. "You see? I'm not going to disappear this time. I'm here, for you."
Rose didn't know whether to trust her senses. They had failed her before in the past, why wouldn't they now? In a state of confusion Rose began to cry, like she did so many times before. But this time, her mother was there for her.
"Oh, Rose..." Ruth took Rose into her arms and held her as she cried.
Rose did not return the embrace at first, she was still unsure that her mother was really there. But when she kissed Rose's cheek and stroked the back of her hair, she knew that it wasn't a dream. Her mother was really there.
Ruth nodded her head. "It's really me this time, Rose," she said almost in a whisper. For several moments, Rose just stayed there in her mother's arms, afraid to break the spell of the happiness she felt by moving. But shortly, she lifted her head, and looked into her mother's eyes.
"I missed you, so much. I thought that I...I might never see you again."
"Oh, Rose..." Ruth could see the sadness in her daughter's eyes. She had been through much, she could tell. And it wasn't just losing Jack, or going through the Titanic experience. It was much, much more.
"I knew when we were on the Carpathia that you were alive, Rose. I didn't have any proof, but I knew in here," Ruth placed her hand over her heart, "that you were alive. I made a vow to myself that I would not stop until I found you."
Rose finally had to say what was on her mind. "When I first saw in the paper that you didn't go to the memorial service...I thought it was because you...you didn't love me."
"Rose, I have ALWAYS loved you. Even though I have not shown it much over the years." Ruth cast her eyes downward. Then she continued on with her explanation. "The only reason I didn't go to that service was because I knew that you were alive. I thought it was senseless to go to a memorial service for someone who was very much alive."
Rose was genuinely confused. "All that time before Catherine called you, you were always sure of that? How, Mama? I don't understand."
"I couldn't explain it if I tried. It was just a feeling I had deep down inside. And then I...I saw you in my thoughts sometimes. You were in very disturbed sleep. That made the need to find you even stronger. I knew that you needed me." Rose was stunned. This woman that she saw before her was nothing like the Ruth DeWitt Bukater that she had grown up with. Rose could tell that she really HAD changed.
Rose looked at Ruth bewildered. "Mama...did something happen to you to make you change like this?"
"Yes, Rose, it did. I came to my senses and started thinking of you rather than myself. I knew almost from the start that Cal didn't make you happy. I was just so terribly selfish. I'm sorry for that, Rose. Please, forgive me."
Rose's eyes became misted over, again...but for other reasons this time. "I already have forgiven you, Mama. I just want to be with you again. I missed you."
"I've missed you so much, dear." Ruth embraced her daughter very lovingly. She, too, began to cry. After embracing for another moment, Ruth pulled away from Rose a bit.
"Now, why don't you get up and come downstairs with me? It's about midday, now. I'm quite sure Catherine is making lunch already."
"I don't doubt it. But I must look terrible! I need to freshen up first."
"Relax, dear. There's no one here to see you but Catherine and myself. But if it would make you feel more comfortable, go right ahead. I'll be downstairs waiting, all right?"
"Okay." Ruth smiled at Rose and kissed her forehead before leaving Rose's bedroom.
Ruth and Catherine sat quietly talking in the kitchen, but when they heard Rose coming downstairs, they both looked up.
"Do you feel better now, Rose? You really didn't need to worry so much about how you look, it's just the three of us here," Ruth said.
"I know, Mama. I suppose I'm just too used to doing it, that's all. Now, what will we be having for lunch? I'm very hungry," Rose said energetically.
"I'm afraid all we have is sandwiches today, dear. Is that all right?" asked Catherine.
"Yes, that's fine."
"Rose, come take a seat next to me," Ruth said kindly. She pulled out a chair and gestured for Rose to sit. Rose sat in the chair and slumped down comfortably. "Rose, dear, don't slouch."
Rose shot her an angry look. Ruth looked back at her and realized what she had said. "I...I'm sorry, Rose. Old habit."
"I know it is. I think as time goes by, you'll stop saying things like that, with practice. I can't be like I used to be, Mama. It wasn't really who I am, and if I try to be like that, I just won't..."
Catherine interrupted as gently as she could. "Rose, you and your mother can talk about those things later. For now, just eat your fill. You still need to gain weight back, dear." For the first time Ruth seemed to notice how thin Rose was. It was true that sometimes Rose had wished she was smaller, like her mother, but not like this. She had lost a lot of weight from her delusional states. More weight than a girl of her figure should ever lose.
Ruth was filled with guilt. She should have been there with her daughter when she was going through her rough times.
They ate lunch in silence, not having anything pleasant to talk about. After lunch was concluded, Catherine announced, too loudly, that she needed to go for a walk. Rose suppressed a grin, knowing why she had said it. As Catherine left through the front door, Rose and her mother both went into the parlor to begin discussing things. So many things...
"Rose," Ruth began. "What really happened when I wasn't here? All I know is bits and pieces of what Catherine told me."
Rose closed her eyelids and took in a deep breath. She wasn't prepared for this today. "Where do you wish me to start? After I left you on the ship, or after it had...when we on the Carpathia?"
"You decide, Rose. You don't have to tell me anything you really don't want to. Mostly, I just wonder how you ended up like this...so thin. And there is something in your eyes that just makes you look...not sad, not ill either. Just...changed. Please tell me, what is it?"
"To make things simple, Mother, I went temporarily insane...twice." Ruth looked at her confused. What was she saying?
"Almost from the very second when I lost..." Rose was silent for a few seconds. "I began having these...dreams, if you wish to call them that. I saw so many horrible things. I saw the ship sinking, I saw Daddy, and I saw Jack...I started seeing Jack, Mama. First just in my head, and then in front of my eyes. I thought he was really there...as real as you are right now, sitting here. I saw Daddy, too. They kept telling me to just be strong; I could make it without them. But I...I couldn't. I really couldn't. In between the times I saw them, I would...well, panic. I just wasn't strong enough. More than once, Catherine had to stop me from...hurting myself. If it weren't for her, I think I would be dead. That second time, I don't know what happened. I was convinced that Cal was going to...well come and get me, drag me back to marry him. I was doing so well and then I just went down hill again. No matter what Catherine would say to me, I didn't believe her. She tried everything in her power to ease my mind, but I just wouldn't...couldn't, hear her. I was terrified, that's the only word for it. I went back and forth between fright and tears, because, for as afraid of him as I was, that was how...how much I wanted you. Catherine told me most nights I would be screaming for you in my sleep. Not just calling you...screaming."
Rose wasn't aware of it, but tears were starting to stream down her face. Ruth gently brushed them away with the back of her hand. "It's all right, Rose. I'm here now. I'm never going to leave you like that again." Rose closed her eyes and nodded. This was too much emotion for one day.
"Rose, why don't we go see if we can find Catherine outside? It's a beautiful day, and you really look like you could use the sunlight."
Rose reluctantly said yes, and stood up. Suddenly she was very unsteady on her feet, making worry leap into her mother's eyes. Ruth steadied her, and told her to sit down again. "Perhaps we should stay in after all. I think you've had enough new experiences for today, hmm?"
"Yes, I think so." Rose put her hand to her forehead. "Oh, I have such a headache all of a sudden. Could you get me a glass of water, Mother?"
"Of course, dear. Just wait right here, I'll be right back."
As Rose sat there waiting, she thought about nothing in particular. She had thought too much today already. She knew she shouldn't be like this...her mother was here now. So was there something else wrong? Why did she have such a headache?
Ruth returned with a tall glass filled with cool water. She handed it to Rose and felt her forehead; she didn't have a fever. That was good at least. "Perhaps you've done too much thinking today, darling. That can cause you a terrible headache." Rose drank the glass of water then looked back up into her mother's eyes.
"Yes, I know. But I just don't feel...right. It hit me so suddenly, and I feel terribly light-headed."
Ruth knew this was serious now. "Rose, just lie down here on the couch. Would you rather I left you alone, or stayed?"
"Please don't leave me alone." There was such desperation in Rose's voice, the thought of leaving her never crossed Ruth's mind a second time.
"I'll stay right here with you, don't worry." She kissed Rose's forehead and sat there, on the floor, next to her daughter. She watched as her eyelids slowly closed. It was then that Catherine reentered the house, coming straight into the parlor.
"Ruth, what is it? Is something wrong with Rose?"
"Yes. She has a headache. One minute she was fine, and the next she said she felt truly ill. I don't know what it could be."
"I'm going to call the doctor, right now. You just stay there, in case she wakes up. She doesn't like waking up and finding herself alone if she's like this."
Catherine walked out into the sitting room, while Ruth stayed with Rose. She suspected that this was something that Rose had gone through a lot of in the past year. But was there something that triggered it this time? Or was she truly ill?
As Catherine left, Rose opened her eyes again. "Mama...it hurts. Make it stop..."
"I would if I could, darling. The doctor will be here soon. Has this ever happened to you before?"
"No, never like this. I've had headaches, but nothing out of the ordinary. This one feels like someone is ripping my head apart."
"Were you thinking of anything when it happened?"
Rose thought for a second before replying. "No, I don't think so." Rose had a confused look on her face. She really had no clue what had done it this time. "I don't know why this is happening, but I don't think it's just stress, Mama. Something is wrong. But I've already had enough problems. I don't want to be sick anymore! I don't want you to see me like this!" Rose yelled out in frustration.
"Rose, I'm going to stay with you no matter what. Do you understand? I'm NOT leaving you. Tell me you believe me, Rose." Rose did not open her eyes. The light bothered her for some reason.
"I believe you, Mama. I love you..." It was the last thing that Rose said before she fell asleep again.
The next time Rose was aware of anything, there was a doctor standing over her, telling her to open her eyes. She did this, reluctantly.
"Now, your mother here has told me you have a bad headache. How do you feel right now?" the doctor asked kindly.
"Terrible, my head feels like it's splitting apart. I just want it to stop."
"Yes, of course." Rose was annoyed with his tone of voice. It was almost as if he were speaking to himself rather than her. Without warning, he flashed a small light in her eyes, which made her cry out in pain.
"Oh, my. I take it that the light inflicts pain, now does it?" Rose's annoyance grew stronger. She had just screamed out in pain, wasn't that self-explanatory?
"Yes. Very much so. Doctor, what's wrong with me? This couldn't be caused by just stress, could it?"
"No, I don't think so. But I won't say that it isn't possible."
Now it was Ruth's turn to speak up. "Isn't there something you can do to find out for sure? My daughter can't go on suffering like this."
"No, of course not. All I can tell you is to have her take something for the pain, and get plenty of rest. If she doesn't feel better by tomorrow, you should bring her to the hospital."
Ruth had been dreading that word since the doctor arrived. She knew the sort of reaction it would get from Rose. It came, just as she expected.
Rose sat up right startled. "No! I don't care what you say or do to me, I will NOT go to the hospital. I never want to set foot in another hospital for as long as I live." She said this calmly but VERY firmly. It was obvious that she was not going to cave in on this issue.
"Rose, dear, perhaps it would be best if you just--"
Rose cut Catherine off abruptly. "No."
Catherine was surprised. Rose had never spoken to her like that before. She silently watched as the rest of the conversation unfolded.
"My daughter doesn't want that, and if she doesn't want to go, she isn't going, Doctor. I'm very glad you came, but whatever happens, Catherine and I will take care of my daughter. Right here, where she is comfortable."
"The final decision is up to you, of course. If you do need me again, please do call. Good day, ladies."
Catherine showed the doctor to the door, leaving Ruth and Rose alone together. "I can't go to the hospital, Mama. You know what being in those buildings does to me...I just can't." Rose began to cry tiredly.
Her father had been sent to the hospital many times. It had torn Rose apart a little bit more every time. She hated seeing her father in so much pain. She was grateful, at least, that he had insisted on not going the last time. Much to Ruth's protest, he wanted to die in peace--at home.
"I know you can't, darling. You won't have to, no matter what. I promise. Might you be more comfortable upstairs in your own bed?"
"I'll go up there later. Right now I need something for the pain. Catherine must have something." Just then, Catherine was stepping back into the room.
"Yes, I do, dear, upstairs. I'll be right back. Just lie still, try to relax."
As she waited, Rose fixed her eyes on her mother's face. Still, they had no clue what was wrong. And now Rose was growing frightened.
"Mama, what's happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this?" Rose was starting to panic.
"Rose, dear, you must stay calm, or you might make matters worse. Everything is going to be fine darling. I promise. Now just lay down and try to get some rest." Ruth said this as calmly as possible. She HAD to be calm...for Rose's sake.
"Very well." Rose lay back down on the couch and waited for Catherine to return.
Ruth sat there silently, but so many thoughts were going through her mind...she had waited so long to be with Rose...and now this. She didn't think this present trouble was punishment for Rose, other than the pain she had to endure. It was her own emotional punishment. For not being here when Rose needed her; for never truly being her mother before.
Ruth began to cry, but controlling her sobs. She didn't want Rose to hear her cry at a time like this. She needed to be strong for her. Ruth envied Rose's strength more than anything. She had been through so much, and yet she was still here. And up until now, she was doing fine. She HAD to make it through this. She endured so much to have it all be worth nothing now.
Ruth was as quiet as she could be as she cried, but it wasn't enough. "Mama, please don't cry. Please. I'll be careful, I'm going to get better. I won't go away like...like Daddy. Mama, you always used to tell me you didn't love Daddy. Is that really true?"
Ruth cast her eyes downward. She didn't expect Rose to ask that question now, of all times. She didn't even know how to answer it. She took in a deep breath and envisioned Patrick looking down on her.
"That's a difficult question, Rose. I think that in my heart, I really did love him. But he was like you, Rose. He didn't care what was proper. He did what he wanted to do, and didn't care what anyone thought of him. He just made me so frustrated at times. I didn't know how to deal with it. So most of the time, I shut him out...much like the way I did to you. Only, I didn't have a chance to ever apologize to him." Ruth was silent for a long while. It was her turn to do some complex thinking.
After Catherine had come to give Rose the medicine she needed and then left, Ruth spoke up again, as if the conversation had not been interrupted.
"If I could, I would tell him I'm sorry. He was a wonderful father, and if I had let him into my life, he would have been a marvelous husband, I know. We can't go back now, so maybe by redeeming myself with you, your father can forgive me. Someday."
"He already has, Mama. He told me so." Rose recalled what her father had made her promise him.
"Rose, you were in a...delusional state then--" Rose put a finger over Ruth's lips.
"This one time was different. I can't explain it, but there was one time when Daddy came to me. He spoke to me only for a little while, but he knew that you had changed. He was very proud of you."
"Thank you for telling me that, Rose. It means a lot to me. The entire way here I was promising him I was finally going to take care of you, love you like you are meant to be. It certainly took me long enough, didn't it, Rose?"
"The only thing that matters is that you're here with me now." Despite the horrendous pain in Rose's head, she managed to smile. The smile was short lived, though. The pains ripped through her head again, and Rose squinted hard. "Mama, I think I'd like to go upstairs now."
"All right, darling. I apologize for keeping you talking so long. Come, just lean on me if you have to. We'll take it slowly."
Rose looked uncertain, but got to her feet. She did indeed have to lean very heavily on her mother. Through much effort, they made it up the staircase and into Rose's bedroom. Ruth helped her to the bed and made sure she was comfortable. Though no level of comfort could get rid of the pain.
Rose took long, deep breaths, and let them out slowly. She tried to relax all her muscles. She knew if she tensed, it would just make matters worse.
"Rose, are you all right?" Ruth noticed her unusual breathing.
"What do you think, Mother?" Rose asked very forcefully.
"I mean are you any worse. You're breathing abnormally. You just scared me--"
"Just please be quiet! It hurts..." Ruth had never heard that tone in Rose's voice before. Even while talking about her engagement to Mr. Hockley.
Ruth made sure to whisper now. "I know you don't want to, but perhaps you should go to the hospital, dear. I promise I'll stay right there with you. Someone has to find out what is wrong with you, darling. Please, let's go. Right now."
Rose winced at the thought. If there were one thing in the world she would pick to never do again, it would be to go to the hospital. But she knew her mother was right. "Not now, Mother." Rose paused for a few seconds. "But if it is still like this tomorrow morning, I promise you that we will go to the hospital."
"All right, Rose. Just sleep for now. Shall I still stay here, or not?"
"Please stay. You don't have to say anything more. Just...hold my hand. Please?"
"Of course, dear. Now sleep. You need a lot of rest." Rose closed her eyes and within minutes, she was asleep. The painkillers worked, but to little fulfillment. Ruth tried to comprehend what would be giving Rose such terrible headaches. She had been just fine, and then POW. Almost as if lightning had struck her.
Ruth sat there beside her daughter trying to convince herself that it was nothing, this was just a horrible headache. But deep down inside she knew it was far worse.