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The Student Art & Literary Site of Community College of Allegheny County

The Phoenix

The Student Art & Literary Site of Community College of Allegheny County

The Phoenix

The Student Art & Literary Site of Community College of Allegheny County

The Phoenix

The Drive

The drive from Pittsburgh to a little town in New Jersey called Parsippany is about five and a half to six hours on a regular day. You know this well, because you have made the trip plenty of times, for weddings, thanksgiving, a COVID Christmas, to catch a plane out of JFK for a destination wedding in Mexico. You take 376 to 22 to catch the 99 north until it meets up with Route 80 right around State College, and from there it’s a straight shot east to Parsippany. I know you know; I’m explaining this for all the other people who don’t.

This drive is different though, you aren’t making this drive for some celebration. You had just made the drive home from Parsippany on Tuesday, after you spent a long weekend home because you found out your mom was in the hospital and not doing so well. You spent hours of each day back just sitting in the hospital room, trying, but failing to have a conversation with her because she wasn’t there. She was speaking incoherently. You were more just there to provide her company and love in hopes of healing vibes. At least until Tuesday.

You went there early to make the most of the day before you had to head back to Pittsburgh. You, your girlfriend Bianca, and your sister Sandy got there, and you could tell right away that she was in a much better space. You guys could understand her, she was feisty and herself. She was still hurting and tired, but she was there. The nurses had said she couldn’t drink any water, but they gave her a sponge to wet her dry mouth. “They don’t know me,” she said when you told her you couldn’t let her suck some water off the sponge. And that look. The ultimate sideways stink eye. And she was right. They didn’t. They had no fucking idea how unstoppable of a woman your mother was. So, you hold the sponge to her mouth, and she sucked the water out. You tell her you can’t do anymore; you fear for her safety. While they don’t know her, you also don’t want to complicate her recovery because you know she hates hospitals. I mean last year, when she almost died, she legitimately tried to get you to break her out. You had to ask the nurses for help in convincing her to stay just one more day, until she got the “all clear” from her doctors.

So, you leave to go back to Pittsburgh, you’d told your girlfriend about the days before, where she couldn’t speak a coherent sentence, and are both happy that you got in a good day before you left… and it seems like she’ll make it out of this.

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You call her each day after that, but you can tell she doesn’t really feel well enough to talk on the phone. She’s tired, and her voice is shaky and gravelly. But she’s talking. She’s getting better. You let her go, tell her to rest, and that you love her so much. That she’s the strongest person you know and that nothing can stop her.

You are getting back into your routine, going to work, trying not to dwell too hard on her. You had messaged cousins and family that everything seems okay, she’s going to be better.

Your girlfriend drops you off at work on Friday and calls you fifteen minutes later. She’s outside on Penn Ave, and she wants you to come down and talk to her. You step out. You know. Your dad had called her because he didn’t have the heart to call you and let you know while you were at work. She’s not gonna make it. She took a turn for the worse, she’s not dead yet, but she’s not going to be waking up.

You were just there; you just saw her. You spent days there trying to comfort her when she wasn’t doing well, and then it seemed like she was finally pulling through. But that was just a gift. One last memory to cherish. Your mom telling God that she needed a few more days, one last memory.

You know you have to go see her, but you just took an emergency vacation last weekend, and you know there’s little chance someone will be able to cover you right away. Besides, she’s not waking up, so you’d just be going to sit next to her for a little while. So you tell Bianca that you are going back to Jersey on Monday for the day. You are supposed to work Tuesday and know there’s only so much you can do, but you need to say goodbye.

Monday morning comes, you wake up early, get in the car, and just start driving. That five-and-a-half-hour drive turns into about a four-hour drive. You aren’t gonna miss this. You drive right to the hospital and bump into your Aunt Dede and Aunt Helen. They give you a hug, everyone talks for a little while, and then they go.

So, you sit there, for hours. Just you and your mom. You read her the letter you wrote while you had been in there with her last week. Because you had this feeling that this was the end. You hold her hand. And you say goodbye.

You are your mother’s son.

You got to say goodbye.


You get back in the car stop by to see your dad. You give him a hug; tell him you love him. If there’s anything he needs, he can call you, and you will do your best to help from Pittsburgh.

And then you are off. You drive back to Pittsburgh. You wish you didn’t have to leave, but you have work tomorrow, and what else can you do? You know sometimes it takes weeks for someone to finally pass over. You think of your uncle who took four weeks to pass, but you also think about how he waited for every one of his 6 remaining brothers and sisters to visit him before he did. You hope that your visit will be enough for your mother to find peace. You are strong, too strong, fake strong. You feel numb. You just drive in the November night. The trees are bare. The stars are out. You are going ninety on an empty Route 80. You just want to get home, tell some stories, hug your girl, hug your dog. Maybe even act like this isn’t real. But it is real. You are on cruise control. Memories flood your mind as you listen to the saddest country songs you can pull up.


You see yourself in her old jeep going thirty over speed humps to do “whoopty woos.”

You see her in the front of the crowd cheering for you with her one-man band.

You see her chasing strangers’ kids and terrorizing them on the playground, and the kids loving it.

You see homecooked meals and homemade birthday cakes.

You see her sitting in her chair with a huge smile as she hands you gifts from Santa that she couldn’t afford.

You see her dancing with you to “Forever” by the Beach Boys.

You see her. Forever.


She lived one more day, and then passed to the other side early on November 9th.


-Russell Morris


“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

-Winnie The Pooh.


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  • S

    Stephanie MarshFeb 5, 2024 at 1:09 am

    I stayed with my Pop at their house bc we live just down the road. I’d been there for days and was lucky enough to get one of those lucid moments.
    (From the Zach insta, I want to give you a high five for the shameless self promo bc no way you pass that up!)

  • V

    Virginia AntonelliNov 10, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you Rusty for sharing your time with your Mom, yes, you made me cry to but I am happy you could share this with all of us. Love you always. Aunt DeDe

  • S

    SandyOct 13, 2023 at 8:57 pm

    you made dad cry. we love you.