But I didn't want to believe that. So when I got home from work that day and discovered several messages from my sister telling me Mom was in the hospital, I refused to believe it was anything but a bump along the way. After all, she still had a few months left; a doctor said so.
When I got to the hospital, I was shocked by how small she looked, how fragile and lost. The bump on her head from her fall had gotten worse, now resembling some Cronenberg mutation. And there was her voice, faint and far away but oddly cheerful: "Hi, Honey. Did you have to work late?"
Yeah, I said. Sorry, I didn't know until now.
"That's OK. Have you eaten?"
No, I explained, I came over here as soon as I got the message.
"Oh. Well, you should eat. I'll be OK. It's almost time for Lost, and after that, I'll get some sleep. What are you going to do tonight?"
I don't know. I'm kind of worried...
"I'll be OK. Really. Go have some pizza and watch MST. That always makes you feel better."
So I did. Mom was right--Mystery Science Theater 3000 always made me feel better, could always be counted on to give me a laugh when I needed one. So I picked an episode at random, Joel and the Bots going to town on the Roger Corman Western Gunslinger.
An odd choice, as it happened. The movie itself is oddly obsessed with death, and that carries over to the rest of the show, which features this sketch:
Kind of weird, but nothing creepy about it. Sure, Mom was in the hospital, but she'd be alright. Wouldn't she? Wouldn't she?
You can guess what happened next: An early morning phone call, a long, agonizing vigil, bad hospital food, then...well, then she died.
And the bottom dropped out of my world. Mom was always there, the one person above all others that I could always count on to be there for me, to point me in the right direction, to tell me what I needed to hear. Without her, how could I go on?
Something else was there for me, though. In the blur of days following, the visitation and funeral and dread of returning to work and everything else, I wondered if I could ever regain what had been lost. In the depths of sorrow, could I ever be happy again? There was one sure way to find out:
Another random episode: I Accuse My Parents. The intro made me happy, and the episode made me laugh. A lot. And when it was over, I knew Mom was right: It would be OK.
I'm writing all this right now because Mystery Science Theater 3000 premiered twenty-five years ago today. It was hugely influential to the comedy landscape of the late twentieth century, and its lasting impact continues to be felt well into this century.
And more than that, it's the show that kind of saved my life.