Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Part One

The Saturday of Labor Day weekend was planned as a "day off" for Thomas and I.  With Thomas' aunt coming into town and knowing that it was going to be ungodly hot that weekend it was decided that we would enjoy that day at his parents house.  Swim in their pool all afternoon and relax before spending the next several days moving into the new house.  There was still so much work to do there, but we needed this day so badly.  The two weekends prior had been spent cleaning and painting and dealing with contractors/handy men who only seemed to be handy at taking our money in exchange for shitty workmanship.  The home buying process was exhausting enough and we had such a long road ahead of us in terms of making the home exactly what we wanted.  But that Saturday off was well deserved.  Our moving plans were set into motion and we were excited to finally get to this new chapter in our lives.

That Saturday morning we took a few boxes of belongings over to the house in anticipation for the moving to begin the next day.  We scooped up the dogs, stopped for provisions (read: beer. lots of it.) and spent the afternoon lounging poolside.  It was just like any other Saturday spent at his parents house.  Pool, beer, music, food.

It was around 6 when I heard my cell ringing.  Funny thing about that, I rarely leave my phone outside when we're at his parents house.  Usually I take it inside and that's where it stays until we leave.  I had just cracked a fresh beer and finished a slice a pizza when "Gramma" popped up on my cell phone.  I can count on one hand the amount of times that woman has called me since I've owned a phone.  I always call her.  She only calls me when it's bad.  Bad enough that she can't handle it herself.

The conversation itself wasn't filled with panic, but concern, confusion.

"The police just called me.  About your mother."
"Was she arrested?  Was it a DUI?"
"No no.  She fell.  She hit her head.  They took her by ambulance to the hospital. Your sister is picking me up and we're heading over there."
"Oh.  Is she okay?"
"They couldn't tell me anything else.  Only that I should go to the hospital as soon as possible."
"Okay.  Well get there and call me and let me know what's going on.  It doesn't seem that bad though.  I mean, if it was bad they would've told you I'm sure."
"I don't know.  I have a feeling this is pretty bad."
"Don't worry, Gramma.  It's not like she's going to die.  She's too stupid to die."
"Don't say that.  We don't know anything yet.  I'll call you when I get there.  I love you."
"I love you too."

I walked back to the table where everyone was sitting and told Thomas that mom was at some hospital because she hit her head.  I didn't know anything but Gramma was on her way and would update me.

It started to get dark out and the phone rang again.

She fell down some stairs.  She was alone.
Serious injury.
"They are still in surgery.  I'm waiting for a doctor."

An hour passes and my sister is texting me.  Telling me they're still waiting to talk to someone.

The phone rings.

Brain damage.  Severe but unsure of the extent.  She's in a coma.  A nurse is giving pieces of information.  No doctor yet.

My sister texts me, "I wish you were here.  I don't know what to do."
I look at Thomas and tell him I need to go.  To Missouri.  Now.

I call my grandmother.

"Do I need to come there?  If you tell me you need me there I'm on my way."
"I don't know yet.  Let me wait to talk to the doctor before you decide to leave.  Maybe it's not as bad as we think."

I begin saying out loud that I need to go but I can't go.  Thomas has to work, we have to move, the dogs, we only have one car right now.  Why is this happening?

Thomas' parents convince me that I need to stay put.  Wait just a little while longer.  Wait for another phone call.  I already knew it though.  I knew I would need to go.

The phone rings again.

"She's out of surgery.  She's on life support.  The doctor wasn't optimistic."
"Do I need to come there?  Say it and I'm there."
"I don't think that would be a bad idea."
"I will call you as soon as I have a flight.  I love you and I'll be there soon.  I promise."
"I love you too, honey."

I tell Thomas that she's on life support.  I have to go.  I have to get another car and get on the road.  Or get on a plane.  Anything that would set me in motion to get there, get to all of them, as soon as humanly possible.

I walk into the house to get my wallet, my credit card.  All the car rental places are closed, I have to fly.  I turn and see Thomas standing behind me.  He put his arms around me and I lost it.  After holding it together for those past few hours, after not crying in front of my in-laws, I let my husband hold me because I could no longer hold myself.  I was terrified.

I booked the first flight out the next morning.

I hugged my in-laws goodbye and told them I would keep them posted.  Each of them crying as I hugged them.  Each of them telling me they loved me.  Each of them praying for an outcome different than the one I had already prepared my mind for.

Life support isn't for the living.

I packed as soon as I got home and for the first time in my entire adult life I packed just one bag, small enough for carry on.  Few clothes, essentials, make up, no hair dryer.  Just enough to get me through a few days knowing that I had to be back by Thursday at the latest.  We still had to move into the new house and Thomas couldn't do it alone.  I had four days.

I didn't sleep that night.  With my phone by my side I was constantly on edge, waiting for a call or a text.  At 5 in the morning my sister sent me a text telling me that Mom had a 106 fever.  She looked so bad.  Please hurry.  I can't do this by myself.

Thomas and I were headed to the airport an hour later.  I asked him to drop me at curb side check in.  I needed to get through security and I was running late.  I didn't want to say goodbye to him and then watch him walk away.  We stood by the car and as he hugged me I could feel his tears on my neck.  With every single thing about this situation out of his control he had to let his wife go.  Let her go to deal with something terrible and sad and there was absolutely nothing he could do.  I couldn't watch him drive away so I walked inside and standing in the security line I did my absolute best to not break down.

As I boarded the plane I sent him a text telling him that I loved him.  I would call him when I got there.

I checked Facebook and for the very first time since having a Facebook account I asked my friends for their prayers.  Prayers for my family.  All the while praying to God to give me the strength to get through this.  To heal my mother.  To bring peace to all of our lives.  I was grateful no one was in the seat next to me during the flight.  As we reached just above the clouds I silently cried.  I would be there soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Let It Go

I have a bad habit of keeping things when I have no use for them.  I keep coupons past their expiration dates.  Empty shoe boxes.  Birthday cards, anniversary cards, Christmas cards, love notes, just because notes, small pieces of paper containing handwriting.  Like I'm hanging on to them in case the words that were written decide to fade off of the paper, which means they no longer exist.  That the words of love that feel forgotten will just float away.  I think that's why I love Facebook so much.  It documents everything.  Every photo, every funny or heartfelt comment.  And at any time you can go back to that time in your head and there it is, right in front of you.  Well, you and whomever you are friends with.

Now my addiction to shoe boxes?*  That's something I just can't explain.  It's like one day I will finally figure out the true reason for keeping them and I can be all smug and tell Thomas, "See?!  I TOLD you they would come in handy one day!"

Then there is the part of me that just forgets when it's time to get rid of something.  Duplicate photos stashed in tucked away computer folders.  They don't take up "space" in a physical sense, so what's the harm?  It's not that I'm attached to digital photos, it's just that I forget they're there.  Floating around in my hard drive just waiting to be looked at, uploaded, or discarded.  Emails in saved folders that have no redeeming quality other than at one point in time they were needed.  Paper documentation from my first drivers permit to my last drivers license with the fat face smiling back at the camera.  My first home purchase, my second home purchase.  And of course both records of their eventual sale. But just like the shoe boxes I hang on to them, as if one day I will have a use for them.

My cell phone is no different than my computer.  Folders and files sit in the memory banks waiting to be queued up and looked at. Call logs date back to the day I purchased the phone over a year ago.  Text messages from months and months ago are there too.  These are the things that I forget about.  My life is filled with enough to remember to do, so forgetting to delete something that means nothing is not at the top of my To-Do List.  It's not until I start to go through them all am I reminded of why I couldn't delete them in the first place.  Like Facebook, my phone stores a photo or a memory of words within it that at a moment's notice I can go and remember that time and that day.  Even when those times hurt.

I took this photo somewhere in the skies over the midwest on the morning of September 4th.  It was early and I was exhausted.  I hadn't even gotten to her yet and I was already mentally wasted.  I was terrified but all I knew was that my family needed me more than they had ever needed me in my life.  I was sad that I had just wiped the tears from my husband's cheeks as we said goodbye at curbside check-in.  I knew I was going to remember those moments for the rest of my life, but this photo speaks volumes of emotions to me.  To some it's a photo of clouds, to me it was just the beginning.

I took this photo on the night of September 7th.  By boarding time I was going on about 8 hours of sleep over the past four days.  I had a couple of beers in the bar before getting on and immediately took the First Class flight attendant up on her offer of a stiff drink before take off.  I remembered that I had procured some heavy duty sleep aids before I left and as the pilot announced before take off that we were expected to experience turbulence over Oklahoma City I decided that for the first time in my entire life I was going to sleep on a plane.  I didn't want to be awake for any of it.  As we taxied toward the runway I swallowed the pill.  As we were headed for take off I pulled the blanket over me, closed the window shade, and closed my eyes.  To this day I don't remember taking off, and I don't remember any turbulence.  That was the best hour of sleep I have ever gotten.  The pilot's voice over the speakers woke me up.  I heard Dallas.  I heard flight attendants prepare for landing.  I opened the window shade and saw the lights of Dallas below me.  I snapped this photo with tears in my eyes.  Knowing that I was 500 miles away from the pain I had just experienced.  I was within minutes of seeing my husband for the first time in days.  I was home.  My real home.

These photos are among many that sit in my phone.  Along with the text messages between her and I in the weeks and days before her death.  Along with the text messages from those who reached out to me after she was gone.  And just like those greeting cards I keep, I can't seem to part with any of them.  As if I am daring my phone to blip and erase it all for me just so I don't have to go back through it all and do the deed myself.

I feel like I'm starting to get to a good place in my own grief process.  I don't think about it every day like I used to.  My anger is slowly dwindling.  My sadness is more about the loss of what could have been instead of what really was.  I'm beginning to let go of things in my life that no longer bring me the joy it once did.  Why hang on to something if it hurts?  Why keep something for the sake of keeping it?  Let it go, throw it away, donate it, delete it and then empty the recycle bin.  Life will and does go on.  I am finally beginning to realize that holding on tight to the past and never wanting to let it go can hold you back, can keep you from moving on and letting yourself heal.  I don't want to dwell in that any longer.

I'll start with the expired coupons, then to the cards.   My memories and emotions are more difficult to let go of, and I know I will have to put the true memory of those three days into words before I can finally push past them, but for now I let them sit.  Happy that with each day they become older and with age comes wisdom. It's so much easier to write about it now, I can only imagine that when my heart and mind know they are ready the words will flow and then I can tuck it away right here in this little corner of the internet.  Out of my head, but permanently written just in case I ever want to come back to it.

The shoe boxes though?  We'll see about that...

* I swearz on everything holy I am not a hoarder.  I'm a hider.  There's a differencel.  And I just so happen to really like shoe boxes.