Jack of All Trades

Following my accident, while being transported by ambulance, the paramedic asked me who they could call to inform them about my situation. Even in the depths of my pain, I knew I could not give them my Mother’s number. She could not have survived a long distance phone call like that.

My older son was at my home, but there was no way I was going to allow him to get a call from a stranger telling him that his mother had been in a horrible accident and struck by a freight train. I couldn’t bear the thought of his 13 year old psyche taking that kind of hit.

So, I gave them my brother’s number. He was tough, and while I knew he was irresponsible in numerous ways, I also knew he knew better than to just call my mother on the phone and drop that kind of news on her. He lived in the same city as her, so could, at the least, drive to her house and inform her in person, which he did.

Unbeknownst to me until months later, at the exact time I was beginning my trip to the hospital, my brother and my son were chatting to each other online.

When my brother got the call from the RCMP, he hung up the phone and then chose to relay the information to my son that his mom had been in a horrific car accident. Hit by a train. Not likely to survive. Then closed the chat by adding that he needed to go tell Nan about it in person, cus she couldn’t handle that sort of news over the phone.

My son then apparently jumped on his bike and flew over to his father’s house, three blocks away. As he was turning into the cul de sac , he spotted his dad pulling out of the driveway with his 11 year old brother in the passenger seat.

He jumped off his bike while it was still in motion ( remember having that skill as a kid?) and screamed at his dad to stop.

This 13 year old child (man), then had the emotional maturity to tell his little brother to go in the house as he had something important to tell his dad.

I can’t tell you with absolute certainty what my ex husband felt in that moment, but I can guess, based on the look on his face when I woke up in the trauma room and saw him looking down at me.

“If she dies, I’m going to have to raise these boys on my own.”

“I can’t believe she did this to me.”

” I wonder if she was still paying the life insurance policy?”

“I hope I’m not on the hook for a funeral-we were separated. For all I know, she’s seeing someone else already!”

He looked scared shit-less, for lack of more flowery prose. Absolutely terrified.

And seeing his face like that gave me the strength and will to fight through the pain and continue living.

Because I knew he was at the core a very unemotional and intellectually barren man. I had been married to him long enough to know all the reasons why.

In the beginning, he told me all of his sad stories of his childhood.

I shared not much at all, to be honest. There simply wasn’t enough room within our relationship for anyone else’s pain but his, and I was OK with that. I was already such a skilled enabler and codependent that I was the perfect girl for him.

The time was never right to open up to him, and I quickly learned to watch his expressions and those big blues, for signs of boredom or distaste.

He was and is an incredibly selfish man.

A man who keeps an internal list of who owes him and who he has helped in the past. For someone with that kind of memory of wrongs perpetuated, he has no side of the ledger where his trespasses against others are tallied.

He is the judge and jury of everyone he has ever met or interacted with his entire life.

He once wrote off his favourite nephew for borrowing $ 400.00 for a hungry wife and babies and not paying it back. It didn’t cause him to go hungry, or take on extra hours at work, or even cut down on his daily 6-pack, but it ate him to the core.

To the core.

Any time that particular nephew is brought up in conversation by someone, he just has to share that story with everyone, and I find THAT more distasteful than the act of not paying someone back that you borrow money from.

I have a PhD from the esteemed schools of Shit Happens and Hard Knocks.

I get how you can start a day with great intentions and end it with the covers over your head and shaking inside at how much shit has flown down the hill your way and knowing you won’t have the strength to deal with any of it until the next day.

My ex husband, father of my children, has always been such a dichotomy to me.

I began seeing him shortly after my father died suddenly. He was 27 and I was 17.

He was big and strong and loud and fierce in appearance. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen in my life.

He liked to drink and he liked to fight. He had boxed for years semi-professionally and missed all that action, I guess.

What he saw in me, I really don’t know, and he wasn’t the sort you asked silly questions like that to.

I asked him once about 10 years into our marriage if he loved me. It was while we were laying in bed together in the dark, waiting for sleep to take us, and I spontaneously asked him.

His response was a loud sigh of displeasure and then he said ” That’s a stupid question. I’m here, aren’t I?”

I never asked again.

Another time, after watching a segment on the Oprah show, I closed my eyes and asked him what colour they were. We had been married about ten years by then, and he guessed wrong.

He also shared with me that he has read 2 books in his entire lifetime and both times, they were mandatory assignments in school.

Oh- and he doesn’t really like music.

I tell these anecdotes not to disparage him, but rather to give the most precise examples I can recall from our relationship in order to best describe him to someone who has never met him.

I truly believe that my children are the reason I survived that accident but I must give Jack his due, as well.

There was no fucking way I was leaving those two amazing, intelligent, loving boys in his solo care…ever.

I knew he would damage them in ways they would never recover from. Not from anything intentionally done, but by his negligence and lack of ability or sense.

He would forget them, or their needs, or give to himself first, as he always had.

They would receive the scraps and there was no way I could allow that to happen to them.

They would have figuratively been like two small trees drying out and bending until they snapped from lack of water and the nutrients they required in order to continue to grow and thrive.

Their roots would be weak and rotting from the inside.

They would never survive strong winds or sunless days.

They needed me to provide for them in those ways, and I believe the fates knew that and allowed me to survive for that reason.

While they were fixing all my broken pieces in the trauma OR following my accident, my sons were in a quiet room (rooms in hospitals where they hide people who are likely going to receive bad news and they can smother the sights and sounds of grieving) with Jack and another family member, and my older son shared with me years later that his father kept muttering , ” she won’t survive this, she’s a goner, it’s just too much damage.”

Apparently to the point where my son snapped and screamed at his father that I would, in fact, survive. He pleaded with his father to stop saying those things he knew were not the truth.

As I was being put back together in a state of nothingness, that little sapling of mine was railing against strong wind, rain, lightning, locusts and the mighty oak, Jack!

You already know who was right and won that one, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Apology

 a·pol·o·gy
əˈpäləjē/
noun
 1.    a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.
“we owe you an apology”
2. a very poor or inadequate example of.
“we were shown into an apology for a bedroom”
As I have aged, the sudden appearance of people from my past or random memories tickling the edges of my mind at strange times has become the norm, rather than the exception. I seem to have the time now to pay attention and puzzle through the appearance of those people I have not communicated directly with in years.
I am sure these types of things have happened throughout my life, but I was not still enough to be aware of them occurring. I was too busy and distracted by the living to hear the whispers, so undoubtedly missed them.
I once had a beautiful cousin named Cindy, who was very dear to me- a surrogate sister in fact.
She came to live with us when I was around 9.
Her mother was my mother’s sister, and although she was seven years my senior, we were always incredibly close. I am sure my parents appreciated having a teenager in the house to do housework and keep us busy, and she definitely pitched in Sunday nights, when my parents had their revolving rummoli games away from home.
My brother and I lived for those Sunday nights when we could be as wild as we wanted, dancing around the house in our underwear, eating cake icing right out of the big metal bowl with the spatulas, and listening to whatever “weird” music Cindy was into that week.
We cut our chops on Alice Cooper and The Grateful Dead and spooked ourselves silly with Cindy’s Ouija board.
We stayed up late watching gritty 70s television like Hawaii 5-0 and The Mod Squad.
My love for Cindy just continued growing over the years; she was one of the few people that was aware of the turmoil in my home and provided comfort and wise counsel always. I believe in my heart that Cindy loved me more than any person I have ever known in my life, with the exception of my brother.
I always felt safe and loved by Cindy.
When she moved to residence in University, many a night she would call me out of the blue and tell me to pack my pajamas and come spend the night with her, pretending she was lonely by herself in her room. Two of us snuggled into her single bed with the flowery spread, watching garbage television and giggling about who was cuter- David Cassidy or Rick Springfield.
She fell in love when she was 20 to a boy she had met at university and had dated for only six months. He was Iranian, and was a doppelganger for Cat Stevens, a singer she had been crushing on for years.
My aunt and uncle told her she was too young to get married and what about university, but she was very adamant that he was her one true love and she would run away to marry him and likely whatever threats silly girls in love tell their parents in order to get their way in the end.
They were married in a formal wedding in 1977 and she looked absolutely beautiful and so in love, like a fairy tale princess.
She, of course, quit school to be a wife, and her husband went to work to support them both, as was the norm in his culture.
Their son was born in 1980, and I was there for his birth, at her request. The first time I held him, I was in love. He was such a beautiful tapestry of races, black and white from his mom and  Persian from his father. I called him little Elvis, as he had so much pitch black hair and even baby sideburns. I was that perfect age to be introduced to a baby- 15- and felt such a closeness to him, as he was part of her, and I had been allowed to be there from the very beginning of his life.
I recall that she started calling me to come stay with her at her new home when Sacha was still tiny, as her husband worked nights. I really cannot remember what job he had then, as most of his jobs seemed to require him to be away from home for more than 12 hours a day.
I would go over and play with the baby and we reverted back to our old ways, of singing together or dancing with the baby. I would spend the nights and go right to school in the mornings. A lot of times her husband wasn’t home yet, and I would find her in the mornings sitting on the couch with the baby, watching the t.v. with the sound off.
I should mention that her husband was always fond of us younger kids, and encouraged us to spend time with them. Cindy had two younger brothers the same age as my brother and I and we were all always welcome with open arms into their home. Her husband drove a very fancy sports car at the time, and I remember him sometimes driving me to school in it, and how cool I felt to be arriving in that car to high school, a dangling cigarette in my hand, with the Bee Gees blaring from his expensive car stereo system.
He was a handsome charmer- I will give him that. He knew how to make a girl feel pretty special.
The problem was, I think he likely made a lot of girls feel special during that time.
Just not his wife.
Cindy and the baby were at my parent’s house one day when I got home from school. Bags of clothes and baby items in the hallway by my room.
She was sitting on the couch with the baby on the floor on his blanket. It was pretty apparent she had been crying. I asked her what was going on and she just shook her head, eyes down.
My Dad told me he had left work to go grab her and the baby as she and her husband had had a fight.
We all just sat there waiting for my mom to get home, as she would definitely be the one to be making any decisions that needed to be made.
When she arrived, they went into the bedroom, leaving my Dad and I with the baby, and were gone for a long time.
I could hear my mother’s voice at times..shrill..angry, and I could hear Cindy’s sobbing.
That night, when we were laying together in my bed, with the baby between us, in the dark, I asked her what was happening. She told me he had hit her with the baby in her arms, because she accused him of having a girlfriend. The baby had fallen from her arms onto the bed, which was a blessing, but not one that my Mom could see.
My Mom and her sister had numerous phone calls over the next few days, going back and forth on what should be done, with Cindy’s husband calling repeatedly in between those marathon sister-calls, begging his wife to come home with their son.
She went back home to him a week later, against my Mother’s advice, her explanation being ” I have to try for my son’s sake, he’s sorry, it won’t happen again, Auntie.”
Cindy managed to hold on until Sacha was around 3 years old, the final break occurring during a months- long visit by his parents from Iran.
He had been fooling around again, not coming home, and she confronted him about it in front of his parents, which escalated into an ugly scene, with his Mother asking him why he allowed his  wife to disrespect him like that in his own home, and him responding with a few slaps to his wife to prove his masculinity.
My Dad and Mom went to get her together that time, and although I wasn’t there with them, and I certainly wasn’t told all the details, the sight of my father’s bloody knuckles were all I needed to know that this time, she wouldn’t be going back.
After staying with us for a bit, Cindy eventually got a place of her own with her son, and managed to regain her confidence and respect in herself. She went back to school, began working, and I babysat for her in the evenings while she worked.
The bond I had with her son grew even stronger during this time, and Cindy encouraged that. She shared him with all of us, and he was such a happy little boy.
His father moved over 1000 miles away, didn’t provide any support, but when he called, Cindy would proudly share with him their son’s accomplishments and encourage Sacha to talk to him on the phone.
One evening when Sacha was 10, he called me to tell me he was playing soccer that evening at a park by my home, where I lived with my husband and two young sons. I told him to pack his over night bag, and I would come with the boys, watch his game, and he could come home with us for the night.
Having talked to Cindy the day before, I knew she had been sick and told by the doctor at the emergency room that she had a sinus infection, so thought I could keep him the night, which would allow her to rest.
I told him to tell his mom the plan, and he told me his mom was in bed but could not talk to him.  I asked him if she was sleeping and he told me her eyes were open and she looked scared but couldn’t talk.
I called Cindy’s Dad and asked him to drive over to her house, as I was at home with my two sons and no car.
My uncle called an ambulance immediately upon assessing the situation with his daughter and Sacha was taken to school by the neighbour.
By the time I got to the hospital, they were taking her for a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.  As they wheeled her away, I will never forget her eyes looking at me, full of tears, but determined I understand what she was trying to convey without the ability to speak to me. She didn’t need words. I knew what she wanted and my eyes sent right back to her that I understood and would do what she needed.
( My son, Shannon, my son, what is going to happen to my son? Take care of him for me, Shannon, take care of him.)
I never saw her eyes open again.
She was transferred to intensive care and as family gathered, the doctors informed us that she had no brain activity. The virus had ravaged her system and there was no hope for survival.
Her parents asked that she be left on life support until her brother could arrive from out of province to say his goodbye to his sister, and I left to go pick Sacha up at school.
It was his last school day of the year, and he had his report card in his hand when he ran towards my car.
I cannot for the life of me remember what I said to him as I drove us back to the hospital. I likely told him Mommy was sick, and he was excitedly chattering away about his last day and plans for the summer with his friends, so I was allowed to remain silent.
I am pretty sure I  told him his Nan and Poppa were waiting for him at the hospital.
I do remember them all asking me if I could take him in to see her, as her parents were too emotional to do it.
Sitting by her bedside, I encouraged him to read his report card to her.
He asked me if she could hear him as she was sleeping and I told him she would hear everything he said.
Later that evening at his grandparent’s house, I took him outside.
It was twilight of a beautiful summer evening, and I had to tell a 10 year old child that his mother had died.
I remember us standing on the patio looking up at the sky.
I promised him that this was the hardest thing he would ever go through in his whole life and that because he was so young, that meant the rest of his life would be blessed.
That losing your mother so young meant that only good things could happen in the future.
Her eyes, his eyes, those eyes looking up at me, full of tears but also searching inside of me to reassure himself that I was telling the truth…nothing could ever be worse than this moment moving forward.
I held him as he cried and told him I would always be there for him whenever he needed me.
In the years following her death, he lived with me at times, and at other times with his grandparents. We remained close and I traveled back for his graduation from high school. My gift to him was a scrapbook of sorts, with stories about his childhood and his mother and pictures of us all together.
I wrote about how proud I was of him and how incredibly proud his mother would be of him; how she always knew he would be an achiever of great things.
He spent time with me during summer breaks in university until he moved further away across the country to begin law school.
I have always felt his physical absence deeply, although we remain in contact via texts and calls. He is always the one to start the conversations, because I don’t want to bother him…the busy lawyer working for the justice department now.
The busy father of two beautiful daughters – one that looks so much like his mother, I cannot look at her pictures without tears streaming down my face.
The apology part of this story arrives with a phone call I received a week ago.
From his father, who I have not seen in 26 years, since Cindy’s funeral.
When she died, he came back home for the funeral, and I suppose out of duty of sorts, not sure what was going to happen to his son.
Sacha was staying with me during this time, as his grandparents were just too emotionally unstable, grief-stricken, and unable to provide him with the care he needed immediately following their daughter’s death.
Of course, his father did not get the red carpet welcome from the majority of my family, but I made an attempt to be civil with him for his son’s sake.
He visited Sacha at my home, minimizing the time he would have to spend with his former in-laws.
I buffered a lot during that week.
All sides.
At the funeral home during the viewing, he asked me if he could see Cindy one last time, and Sacha responded that he wanted to be with his Dad during that.
I made sure no one was looking, and got the two of them into the room together, where Cindy was in her casket. I remember at the time knowing if any of my family saw that happening, or my part in it, I would receive an earful and a half, and it would not be pleasant for me at all. I remember feeling that it was the last time the three of them would ever be together again, as a family, and I likely wouldn’t have even attempted it but for the fact that Sacha wanted it to happen.
So, 26 years later, I receive a phone call that he is in the city I live in on a business trip, and would like to see me.
He was as charming as I remembered, still affectionate with me, and seemingly ecstatic that I had even showed up to see him.
We reminisced about old times with the family, holidays spent together over Christmas and summer vacations at the cabin. Like many people as they age, he seemed to only recall the good times and none of the bad, and I was OK with that.
We discussed his son, who he has seen intermittently over the years; he seems to feel a closeness that I know his son does not reciprocate, but I let him brag about the accomplishments and those of his 2 younger sons, who he had with another woman following Cindy’s death.
As dusk approached, we sat side by side on a bench in a public area.
The words slowed down and the silences grew.
I felt him shake a bit beside me, and turned to look at him in the dark- he was crying.
Commenced to telling me he was wracked with regret, could never forgive himself for what he did to her.  The things he didn’t do, but should have.
For both her and the son they made together.
Worrying about his judgement day- what would be in store for him. Did I know?
Shuddering sobs, spilling all of it all over me, sitting there in silence, trying not to react or fall apart myself.
He was wanting my forgiveness- wanting me to release him somehow from his pain.
Perhaps to forgive him on BEHALF of Cindy- a delegate of sorts, the family forgiver of wrong-doings.
I didn’t do it.
What I did do was tell him he could not turn back time; he could only move forward and try to make things right/better with his son.
I told him Cindy was not vindictive and would not want anyone spending a lifetime suffering with regret.
Said they were both incredibly young- and that she did love him with all her heart; truths I told him.
I refused to comfort him with emotional salve for his soul wounds. I just could not do it.
The part of me that was young and forgiving of everything is gone, I guess, and my reaction surprised me. I have always been the type to want to nurture those that are in pain, and he was certainly in pain that night.
But I couldn’t let him off that hook he placed himself on all those years ago.
Not for Cindy and most certainly not for his son.
I believe I provided him with some comfort with my truth-telling, but not what he came to me for- complete and utter absolution of his sins towards his wife and son.
Since then, I think about how we change as we age, and how regrets can grow in a person until they eventually need release of some kind.
Speaking to his son the next day, I didn’t share the details of my visit with his Dad, just the highlight reel. I suggested that his dad had regrets, and that I hoped they could some day find their way back to each other, as life is fleeting.
Sacha responded with, ” He planted the seed in the garden and walked away from it, never looking back. No water, no tending the weeds, and yet despite having done no work in that garden to help the flowers bloom, he expects to reap the bounty and receive a share of the dividend.”
No apologies.

The Sandbox Writing Challenge – Review # 4

In the last 15 exercises, did any of your answers surprise you? Why?

I really surprised myself with how honestly I responded to Challenge # 50 regarding playing games. It has been a whisper of a thought that has danced into my conscience for years, but I have done my best to swat it away as quickly as it comes calling. I’m pleased that I have grown enough to accept accountability for the part I have played in the demise of intimate relationships. I need to explore that stuff further in relation to if I am patterning anything I perhaps saw as a child/youth.

Is there any exercise that felt more charged than others? If you’d like, carry on with that post and share your additions with us.

Oh yes. Challenge # 42 – Of Two Minds was the beginning of my story about renewal and transformation. That blog post gave me the thought that perhaps I COULD get that story out in whatever way worked best for me. To be honest, I cried a lot writing that. But felt really good afterwards.

Were there any exercises that felt incomplete to you? If so, complete them now. Stop when your energy is spent. Then please share them with us.

Challenge # 43 showed me that I can actually write poetically if I try. I’m awfully lazy though, so definitely need to force myself.

What insights about you (if any) came to light in these last 15 exercises?

I always wonder why I come across as sort of serious/melancholic in my blogging subjects and yet, am very upbeat and positive in my daily life with those I interact with. I think I feel safer writing it out. I was never encouraged to show an honest face or feelings to the world, so have always felt far more comfortable writing out my innermost thoughts and feelings. I am looking forward to the day I am done with my own personal “excavation” and can start writing about current events more often or those issues that affect me personally, which are also not quite so personal.

_____________________________________________________________

Who might benefit from what you have discovered?

Myself, obviously. Perhaps my sons someday if I ever get the main story out of me and onto paper in an organized fashion. They will understand what made their crazy Momma tick and perhaps be more forgiving of some of the mistakes.

What actions might you take now that you wouldn’t have taken before?

I am now confronting people directly in a calm measured way, rather than stuffing my resentments and anger and fear inside, as I have done my whole life. I got a bit off-track with my health this summer, and spent valuable time reflecting on ways I could improve my stress levels & physical/mental health without alienating everyone in my life by suddenly turning shrew!

I am planning to deal with what is left of my Mom’s belongings in my basement and to scatter what is left of her ashes during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Either alone or with my sons; it will not really make a difference to me at this point, as it has been ten years this year and it is time and I am ok with it, however it pans out. If I cry, I cry-and if I laugh, I laugh, and if I just sit in the stillness of the fall air and colours and don’t do anything, it will be perfect.

What can you now accept about yourself?

I am ok and will always be ok. I don’t fear much of anything anymore other than losing my sons, as I have already survived everything else. It is rather an empowering feeling, actually! I feel strong and I am a bit of a force to be reckoned with, you know!

What else would you like to know about yourself?

I’m not sure. I guess I will see what the next set of challenges brings out.

Now that you’ve tapped into your energy, can you think of ways to tap into it more often? Are there thoughts, such as “it’s not serious,” or images from this book or your imagination, that you can focus your attention on, to help you feel more alive?

I feel more alive outside and in nature. I need to find ways to do that in our winter climate.

`

Rebirth

Following three days of oblivion, my senses awoke one by one.

 wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish

The sound and feel of  the sequential compression stockings as they filled with air and squeezed my thighs and calves.

pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff as they released the air.

The beeping and alarms of the machines attached to my body. Every organ and body part being monitored by its own very vocal team of wires and stickies and buttons. What looked to be huge heavy snakes  hanging over or draped through the bed railings and tucked under the sheet over me.

( Jungle Book in the theatre at 4 years of age. so happy to be sitting there with daddy alone and no one else. the scene where Kaa the snake appears. stiffening up and peeing a tiny bit from fright and trying not to cry cus mommy said be good or he wont take you again. daddy seeing your fright and pulling you out of your seat and into his lap clumsily. pushing your face into his chest and smelling the man smells of tobacco and old spice and knowing you are safe.)

trust

Voices were coming out of the wall somehow. In the dim lighting of the room, I could hazily see a small white square, which seemed to be talking to me.

” Assist needed in 701-2.” ” Karen to desk.” ” Code Blue – Unit 70.”

“Over here, Dad…I’m here. Over this way.Come help me.”

” I don’t know where I am, Dad. Come get me, please. I want to go home now.”

He’s been dead and gone for over twenty years but I babble away from dry stoned lips, voice cracking from disuse and fried vocal chords from screaming and hoses jammed down my throat.

Once my sight adjusts to the lighting, I notice I am not alone as I first thought.

I can make out shapes of others in beds like the one I am in. Shadowy shapes under white sheets .

Three others in the darkness with me.

The one beside me is crying quietly and melodically. In the days and mostly nights ahead, I will come to know the rhythm of her crying very intimately. More intimately than I have ever become one with a stranger.

I have long forgotten her name and with great deliberation have mostly obscured her ravaged face from my memories.  The closest I can come to most accurately describing the imagery of this poor soul is with the explanation that her face had been literally torn off and then seemingly stitched back on with thick black stitches and metal clips to hold it in place.Her cries I have never forgotten and still hear and feel to this day.

Heartbroken rhythmic crying like a child. The crying took on such a life of its own within my psyche during my time there with her that she is a part of me now.

There was a young man directly across from me with severe brain injury. He was 19 years old and had committed himself to the state he was in by having 2 beers and then riding in the back of a truck his friend was driving in circles around a parking lot during a tailgate party. His mother later told me that the truck never went over 5 miles per hour. So, moving very slowly, almost too slowly to even move. That her son was sitting on the side and simply fell backwards and hit the pavement head first.

He was a physically beautiful young man with a lovely complexion and warm auburn hair who had been suddenly turned in to an inappropriate three year old who asked questions constantly and also used some pretty bad language that he brought with him when he reverted back to toddler-hood.

He said the most filthy things imaginable over and over and over again, mostly to his mother, as she was always there with him. Day and night. By the side of his bed. I fell asleep to her soft voice telling him stories and awoke every morning to her gentle good morning. To this day, I still carry love and admiration in my heart for this woman and hope her difficult journey with her childlike son became easier as time has gone on.

Bed 4, kitty corner to me, never had anyone in it long enough that I got to know them or their stories. In my head, I was calling it the death bed, as not single person left that bed to any place other than the morgue. The lady whose ex husband shot her for leaving, the man whose step father stabbed him repeatedly with a knife during a family argument, the catatonic middle aged wealthy women who flew straight off the back of her husband’s brand new Harley directly into oncoming traffic.

The door cracked open that first night I lay there and a nurse appeared, letting in strands of light from the outside hall behind her. She approached my bed and stood there for a moment looking down at me. As I looked up at her, the lighting around her shimmered and swayed. She was hidden in the dark, but her hair and uniform made a ghost-like aura of light around her.

Well, hello sleepy-head. Decided to wake up for a wee bit, did you?”

She spoke to me the entire time she was checking the machines, and changing IV bags, measuring inputs and outputs, and straightening the bedding over me. She had a crisp british accent and used words like pip and rubbish and gutted.

She showed me the button I was to push for more medication from the box beside my bed and the button I was to push to bring her to my bed from the hall.

She told me about the stockings and how they might be bothersome, but that they would keep me safe from clots and pulmonary embolisms.

She gently placed a sponge soaked in ice water into my mouth and swirled it softly against my teeth and then did it over and over again as tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks from the simple taste and relief of moisture on my tongue and the knowing that the metallic blood taste would be washed away down my throat.

She asked me questions about the year we were in and who was the prime minister and was it summer or winter. What my children’s names were. Did I remember what schools they went to?

She explained my injuries and why my wrists were restrained and after I promised not to pull at any wires or tubing, she let me free.

” You caused quite a cock-up in the recovery room, my dear. Quite the strength for such a broken girl. The neurosurgeon said they should have expected it from the girl who beat the train.”

She spoke to me and touched me so gently that I began crying again and shivering, almost bewildered by this kindness from a stranger.

She gave me more medication, then brushed my hair back from my forehead and looked directly into my eyes.

As the medications began to do their magic, she said to me ” you are a fighter, dear and I need you to keep on fighting for me.”

Closing my eyes and dreaming of

fresh out of the tub and in flannel jammies curled up into her daddy watching Mary Poppins on the big picture box. the lady who talks funny is singing about medicine and daddy says he will always give her some sugar as long as mommy isnt watching, because sweet helps make the bad stuff not as bad.

 

 

 

So Many Players You’d Think I Was a Boardgame

I am a piece of work and in my defence, I have always warned potential romantic partners of this fact.

Right in the beginning, actually.

First meeting.

” I can be a “bit” of a handful.”

Of course, the sociopaths ( I kid- a little) that are attracted to me just become more intrigued and grab on for dear life, usually.

I am the mistress of the game, I’m afraid.

I start like gang busters, providing you with advice and listening to your troubles and staying engaged and becoming your most trusted advisor/spiritualist/psychologist.

I prepare your most favourite meals, and remember all those little details you share with me about your preferences in clothing, television programs, music, and entertainment outings.

I could write tomes about your issues with your mother/father/siblings/ex-wife/children/boss/co-workers, and also provide reference material and perhaps footnotes at the end, like academic papers.

I start to take care of the little things for you like reminding you of bill payment deadlines, doing five years of back taxes for you by hand, arranging payment schedules for your student loans, and sometimes even arranging visitation for you with your children, if you have a difficult ex. She would rather deal with me than you, anyway- who wouldn’t?

I seem like the best thing that ever happened to you and you will tell me that over and over and over again, as you happily hand responsibility for all the boring minutia in your life over to my care.

We will carry on in this fashion for many years, until I suddenly wake up one day and realize that I am exhausted by the crushing weight of you and all your problems.

You will have long past forgotten to thank me for performing tasks, and will now take for granted that I am content and happy, due to the fact I don’t ask for anything and don’t complain.

This will carry on for approximately three years – this new phase.

I will catch you looking at me when you think I can’t see you- puzzlement all over your face at times.

You may start asking me what I am thinking about if I am quiet and I will respond with a laugh, ” oh nothing…you know me…just in my own little universe.”

Historically, around relationship years 12-18, I am coasting on my own cloud.

I begin withdrawing,  then dreaming, then planning on how best to extricate myself from you.

I can justify this by your bad treatment of me and how I am the one always giving but getting nothing in return.

Please note that I never once asked you or told you or even discussed in a serious way with you my own needs or where you were lacking.

I just assumed that you loved the same way I did, and that I would receive back automatically what I had given in the name of love.

I don’t and never have shared relationship problems with friends, so when it’s all said and done, I can tell those in my life whatever I want to as far as reasons for the breakup.

That is the game I play and although I am not in any way winning at it, until I change the rules of this game, I am afraid it will continue until I decide the time has come to forfeit my turn.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

 

 

 

The Reckoning

I awoke from the morphine dreams to blinding lights above me and many faces looking down on, surrounding me on the stretcher. A frenzied energy of motion swirled throughout the room.

An older nurse pushed a square plastic container towards my face, encouraging me to drink from the straw she placed between my dry cracked lips. I drank the blue liquid thirstily, not expecting the taste to be so bitter and wondering why she kept saying, “more, you need to drink more, more, please, some more.”

As I pulled my face back from the bitter drink, an enormous man entered the room in blue scrubs. He looked more like a football player than a nurse or doctor, and he walked towards me and stood at the head of the stretcher. I groggily looked up into his eyes as he leaned forward and placed his hands firmly on my shoulders and nodded at two males, also in blue scrubs. They approached me from both sides of the stretcher and placed their iron grips on my thighs bilaterally.

The doctor who seemed to be in charge informed me that I had been in a bad accident and required surgery for internal bleeding. I had a fractured neck, multiple spinal fractures, pelvic fractures,rib fractures and pneumothorax ( collapsed lung). He was going to oversee the insertion of a chest tube into my right side in order to inflate my lung.

” This is going to be very, very uncomfortable for you. You will feel like you cannot breathe for the time period where we are getting the tube inserted properly, but you will be OK. We will do this as quickly as possible; please try not to move or panic. It will be over soon, and then you can breathe properly again.”

Before he completed his words to me, I felt a white-hot searing pain in my side, and everyone surrounding me was holding me down, with no warning. No time to prepare for the unbearable agony of not being able to breathe. Time froze as I frantically tried to suck air into my body, panicking, shaking, fighting those holding me down. The resident inserting the tube, moving as if in slow motion, until the voice of the surgeon rang out ” Just shove the damn thing IN. GET IT INTO HER!”

And suddenly air was rushing into my lungs, sweet and cool and enabling me to let loose with the most foul cursing and swearing I have ever uttered in my life up to that day. The resident backed away from the words pouring out of me, shocked and frightened. The nurses were grinning, eyeing the almighty surgeon for his response to the vile names I had called him and his team.

For my behaviour, I was rewarded with more medication that would soon enable me to drift away from the pain once again.

In a small room nearby, my sons, a close friend and my ex husband were brought to see me in the hallway outside the MRI theatre. I recall looking at their faces and feeling so sad that their father had allowed them to see me broken like that. I could see the fear in my youngest son’s eyes and a defiant angry look on his older brother’s face. As they leaned over me, I kissed them both and told them over and over again that I loved them.

Years later, my eldest shared with me what had occurred in that quiet room they were kept in while I had surgery. The surgeons and a social worker had suggested that I was in very weak condition and likely would not survive the surgery to repair me, let alone the night. That was why my youngest was present to see me like that. They thought it was the last time my children would see me alive.

My older son had just had a very emotional argument with his father about my outcome.

He argued with them all that they didn’t know me and that I was not dying on that night.

He told them that I was not a patient they didn’t know, but his Mom and that I would never take the easy way out and die.

He told them, his 13-year-old voice cracking from boy to man, that he knew in his heart that I would not leave him or his brother in the world without me; that I would survive the surgery, then the night, and then be back home with them being their Mom.

Wherever I was on that night, my spirit was listening.

 

 

 

 

5,114 days- The Dividing

5,114 Days = 122,736 Hours
5,114 Days = 7,364,160 Minutes
5,114 Days = 441,849,600 Seconds

It sometimes seems like a lifetime ago but can be broken down into hours and minutes and even seconds by a simple Google search.

14 years ago today is when the dividing of my life into two parts occurred.

I have linked the background posts within this piece for reference if anyone should have any curiosity about what led up the the “dividing” for me.

I have learned there are no coincidences, and Cheryl posting this prompt this particular week has pushed me to try and make sense out of one of the most significant losses I have so far endured in my life.

I lost myself that day.

I lost the young, optimistic, cheerful girl who never felt dread or fear of the smallest things or places or smells or events. I lost the feeling of power and trust in the easy fluidity of my physical self and the endless opportunities I had before me.

I lost the dreams of someday walking the Camino or along the Great Wall. Those had to be put away permanently for me. Shattered pelvises and broken backs tend to limit the ability to walk too many steps in a row or run up stairs without a deep aching pain. So you tuck those away and try not to think of them any more.

“You were just a dreamer and likely would have never made it there anyway. You had responsibilities and children to raise and those types of adventures are for wealthy people, anyway.” 

And you stop browsing travel  books and delete links to adventure destinations and start listening to co-workers’ & friends holiday stories and make excited sounds while looking at their pictures and try and save those images in your mind to feed your soul. So you feel a little bit like you were actually there yourself years ago; you can still feel a part of it all.

A consolation prize of sorts.

A Participant ribbon.

My best girlfriend in the entire world came to me and my children when she heard the news of my accident. I remember opening my eyes and seeing her beautiful blue eyes full of tears, looking down at me in the trauma room I was taken to for  the putting back together of all my broken pieces.

She was sobbing and muttering  in a quiet voice ” I loved the way you walked. You had the greatest walk in the world…so loose, arms swinging, long strong legs, Shannon. Your walk was amazing to see. Not a care in the world. You will never walk like that again.”

At the time, in my drug haze, I brushed that off, as it seemed the least of my worries. But that moment between us two has come back to me many times since then.

I have never walked that way again.

There is a tiredness and caution in my walking now.

Always a moment of stiffness and pain and stretching before I can even begin walking.

A measured carefulness, much like with the elderly.

A preparing of sorts.

A measuring of steps and time involved and stamina.

A quick visual for obstacle or danger lurking around a corner somewhere waiting to harm me.

I lost that naivety and sense of comfort that the world was an open one without danger and numerous opportunities for mishaps and accident which would take away the person you had always been and leave the empty shell behind.

That girl and this girl.

I grieve for what my sons lost of me that day; my best self forever gone. The young carefree mother who was up for any adventure. The one who danced like no one was watching and who jumped on a bike or ran through the sprinkler with them. The one who did cartwheels over and over one sunny day in the backyard for them when they were toddlers just to make them laugh and clap.

Not the embarrassing,fearful, broken one who jumped two feet in the air with a scream and horrified bulging eyes if someone’s lawn chair on the next patio over blew over in the wind, making a clatter.

Not the one who suddenly wailed during a family movie night if there was fast camera work occurring or sudden violence, or god forbid a train or train scene at all. Their worried eyes looking at me fearfully and their clumsy hugs of comfort.

Not the one who cried and cried watching the news; whose heart broke over and over and over again every evening at 5. Who stopped watching the news and just relied on others to keep her updated on things on a need-to-know basis.

Certainly not the one who would drive them all to the big stores and malls and then last three minutes in the mall before telling them she would wait in the car, because all the lights and sounds and people were just too much and always would be. Too many dangerous variables in those places. Too many things that could go suddenly wrong. And all those damn steps. Doing her best to not leak that fear into them and their sense of safety. Making jokes about how she was getting older and really hated places full of people and noise.

I became the master of excuses with my sons and friends.

I laughed when I felt like crying over losing her.
The real me.

The after this brought the mother who obsessively checked flight tracker when her eldest went to Germany the first time. Not once. Not twice. Probably over two hundred times. Sitting at the laptop, chain smoking, endlessly hitting refresh…watching from afar, checking, checking, checking. Watching the little air plane icon moving away from her ” boundary of safety” and out into the world of dangerous happenings. The silent prayers uttered…the pleas of ” if someone has to die  in the universe tonight, please take me and not him”, her cuticles chewed and torn and dripping blood on the keys of the laptop.

The one who talks to herself and reassures herself in whispers that surely if there even is a God, he has already doled out the suffering allotted to her and will spare her sons. The one who thinks in a fair world, you should only have to endure a specified amount and if you endure more, your loved ones get a pass on their suffering.

My sons were robbed of the mother I was supposed to be and ended up with this version. The  after this Mother I became. They have never talked about the ways I have changed or admitted any judgement on the changes, but it is there in the way their eyes light up or voices get more excited when they share a memory they had with the before this Mom.

I am slowly putting the pieces back together on the inside for us all.

There will always be the divide of selves, but I have time to try to put in the work involved in making this one great in her own way.

441,849,600 seconds since she became me.