Mary received the promotion of a lifetime on the first day of the month. She was named manager of the Reuters district office in Cairo. As the youngest head of a major Reuters office, she was due to leave the U.S. as soon as she could. The company was pushing her to hurry. Her mother was happy for her though sorry to see her move so far away.
Mary drove out to her mother’s place from Washington and the two of them went out for a celebratory dinner, Mary’s treat. Her mother was cheerful but didn’t eat much and looked tired and thin.
Mary called her mother two days later.
“I just talked to Doctor Adams,” she said.
“I didn’t want you to worry,” her mother said. “Not now.”
“Worry? I’m not going to Egypt. I’m coming home to take care of you.”
“Nonsense,” her mother said, beginning an argument that Mary finally paused by hanging up, packing, and driving back out to her mother’s home.
“Of course you’re going,” her mother said.
“Of course I’m not.”
They sat staring at each other.
“You’re going to need help,” Mary said. “Practical help and moral support. I’m not leaving you to face this alone.”
“Yes, you are,” her mother said. “Your brother will fly in when I really need him. I’ll hire a nurse when I can’t carry on alone.”
“I’m not going to argue about it,” Mary said.
But they did argue about it, into the night, until Mary’s mother was too tired and ill to continue.
The specialists told Mary that her mother had three months left, tops. At one point Mary’s mother told her that she was going to end it a lot sooner, so that Mary could leave.
“Do you see where this leaves me?” Mary said. “If I go, I feel guilty leaving you just when you need me. If I stay and you do something stupid, then that’s my fault too. Or if I stay and it upsets you instead of comforting you, I’m also wrong.”
“My life is over,” her mother said. “Yours is just beginning.”
“If my job is more important than loving my mother, then my life isn’t worth living,” Mary said.
Her mom thought about that, and what would be best for her daughter. They spent the next three months together.