I guess there are bound to be setbacks. This one caught me very much off-guard. I’ve been feeling different for the past two months. I realized I was spending a lot more time just really missing Jake and a lot less time obsessing over every last minute of that tragic day and the days that surrounded it. I noticed I was focusing better and more often. I even found myself singing in the car with the kids!
Then the other morning I got a phone call that my dad had been admitted to the hospital and it felt like I was reliving August 27, 2014. My mother was saying a lot of words to me and I couldn’t even put them together to have them make sense. Anyone who knows me, probably knows my dad and knows what an incredible person he is. I can’t even think of an adjective superlative enough to describe my dad. For the past few weeks he has been in horrendous pain and unable to leave his bed. My mother has been taking care of him and watching him continue in such pain has really taken its toll on her. He had been to the ER once already, but this time they admitted him because he had pain with breathing.
I now can truly tell you what a flashback is and how it is different from a terrible memory. A flashback is the feeling of being in the moment of a tragic event. My heart racing, my body shaking, visions of everything I saw and did that day in the immediate AFTER. I had to pass by Harborview on the way to the hospital and that is an area I have avoided. I vividly saw myself jumping out of the car of the wonderful stranger who drove me there that day and running into the ER. As I walked through the hospital to my dad’s room, I felt myself walking through the halls of Harborview, not knowing much (because the police were assholes…have I ever mentioned that?)–not understanding that when you are taken to a private room for your family by a social worker–that means something very, very bad has happened. It seems like all hospitals have that same smell. I lived with that smell when I stayed with Jake and I didn’t even really smell it. But, it hit me like a brick wall when I went to visit my dad and I saw and felt everything-Jake in the bed hooked up to many machines and not even looking like my husband, all the blood, the crushing feeling that dropped me to the floor in the worst emotional pain I have ever felt. It was all happening again. Except that it wasn’t.
I was able to speak with my dad’s doctor, who explained what is going on and the plan of action. My parents were happy that it turned out to be something less serious than they had originally thought. But, sitting in that hospital room was torturous for me. I was back living in the Neurology ICU at Harborview, numb, shocked, traumatized. Cleaning the blood off of Jake’s face, holding his hand, making crazy promises to the universe, and wondering how I was ever going to leave that place–how I was ever going to leave Jake and walk out of that hospital without him. I texted people from my dad’s hospital room, trying to bring myself back to the present moment. It helped, temporarily. But I had also spent a lot of time texting, and making phone calls (or having other people make phone calls for me) from Harborview. I was there again. My phone never stopped ringing, the texts never stopped coming. As much as I adore my dad, I couldn’t wait to leave that hospital. How awful is that? My dad–who made sure I was never alone when I was living at Harborview with Jake for four days–and I couldn’t wait to leave. I’m wondering what kind of person I really am.
I nearly fell asleep driving on the way home from the hospital. I was so completely drained. I was back in those first days and weeks in the AFTER where all I could do was climb into bed. I couldn’t even pick up my boys from school. I had made fun plans for the Memorial Day weekend. I had to cancel the first days’ plans. I couldn’t leave my bed. I almost cancelled my evening plans, but told myself I had to play grown-up. I needed to pick up my own little ones from school and proceed with my plans. So, I did. I’m glad I did. It helped me to return to the present and get “un-stuck”.
I’m not completely back to where my mind was the morning before that phone call-but I know I will get there again. Although doctors, nurses, and my mother insist that this surgery my dad will have is very common and he is going to be so much better afterwards–I am very skeptical of doctors and health care in general these days. I don’t have faith that everything will be okay. I don’t believe in happily ever after or that life only throws at us what we can handle. I’m jaded and probably will be for the rest of my life. I know bad shit happens and I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. However, I do truly understand that life is most definitely short and people should take advantage of every exciting opportunity that comes their way. Sometimes, I dwell on all the stuff Jake really wanted to do, and will never get to. But, more often now, I am so grateful for all the stuff that Jake did get to do. The list is too long.
After Jake died, my parents stepped in and took over for almost everything that Jake had taken care of. I learned about things like probate, our monthly finances, budgeting, etc. Both of my parents took care of the kids. But my dad took over pretty much everything else–taking out the garbage, fixing stuff around the house, mowing the lawn, dump runs, etc. All of a sudden, my dad couldn’t help me anymore. He was too sick. I called my brother and asked him if he had a handyman to recommend. He looked at me blankly and said “Dad”. I decided I would need to find and hire a handyman for such things and started looking into it. But yesterday morning-something happened which required immediate action. In the early morning hours, my two youngest (ages 5 & 3) disappeared from the house. My oldest found them down the street, in pajamas and bare feet–looking for slugs. It was early-the time of day when there are a lot of bear and coyote sightings. They could have been hit by a car. The worst possible scenarios ran through my head and I did my best to make it clear to them that they could never do that again (e.g. punishments, long talks, explanations, etc.). But, they are only 5 & 3 years old. I know they didn’t really get it. How to handle this? First–I freaked out. Second–Contacted my friends and asked their husbands to come and install something on my doors (e.g. locks way up high) so my children could no longer escape unnoticed. Third–Calmed down and decided I had to learn to do these things on my own. My girlfriend was on call–ready and waiting to send her husband over to help me. But I was determined. I was going to be brave and figure this out all on my own.
Guess what? I did it. I went to Home Depot and spent way too much time (without asking for help) determining the best option. Scoured my garage for tools and drill bits (didn’t really know what they were–but I figured it out!) Finally, I installed those locks on every door leading to the outside (4 in total). Using power tools and non-power tools and 3/32″ drill bits. I did it. So, although I spent a few days feeling low and drained because of the flashbacks and worries about my dad–I also was able to pull myself out of it, put on my tool belt and move a step (or maybe more) forward.
That started me thinking of all the other things I have started doing on my own. Like killing spiders. Putting out the garbage. Paying bills. Budgeting. Going to Costco (ugh….possibly the absolute worst thing I have had to do on my own…). I may get stuck in the past sometimes, but I am also moving ahead. Most of the time without even realizing it.
My dad’s surgery is tomorrow. Send good thoughts to him–for a successful surgery and speedy recovery.