They say that life is learning how to dance in the rain. They say when it rains it pours. The last four months of 2015 my family and I experienced both aphorisms.
September started out wonderfully. My inner child came out to play during a lesson I was teaching on Jackson Pollock to young children. We slung paint, and danced to jazz on our canvases. Life couldn’t be better. I just had my birthday, my husband was back in school doing something he loved; things were looking up.
Two days later, I had come home from my second job, settled in for a nap when my phone kept going off. Finally I realized it was my husband’s work calling; he was on his way to the hospital. My parents and I rushed to the hospital, my husband’s parents came from over an hour away. He had a side effect from trying to complete extra credit for his religious studies program he just enlisted in. He was fasting, eating an egg during the morning and nothing else until sundown. The second day is when he went to the hospital. By the time his parents got there, he was still vomiting, and we discovered through the whole ordeal, he had received 5 concussions and a hairline fracture. Needless to say, this impaired some of his thinking.
When he was in one of his awake moments, I shared a special memory with him. He was wired up to all these different machines, they were used to monitor his heart rhythms, and his activity. He looked over at me and motioned with his fingers we should go for a walk. I looked at him and told him there wasn’t any way for us to do so until he got some rest. He then genuinely pouted like a 5 year old. Five seconds later he had forgotten he had just asked me to go for a walk. He then started his plea for going on a walk like this:
“We’re going go steal a chicken.”
I said, “And then what?”
He continued, “We’re gonna ask it whose it’s daddy is.”
“And then what?”
“We’re gonna steal it’s egg!”
“Oh really? Then what?”
“Then we’re gonna eat it.” He then gently thrust off the blankets while still being hooked up to machines and said, “Hurry, let’s get outta here before they’re on to us!”
After I told him he had to stay in the bed he pouted again and fell asleep. Later in the evening his father and I had to force feed him his dinner, time it it for each portion he was eating and we had to make sure he got his nourishment. His parents and I took turns watching him in the hospital, and once he was released, my parents watched him at night while I slept to continue working my two jobs.
He had many doctors visits after that, but it was that moment talking about the chickens that I remember the most. That and him remembering how to recite Hebrew words but forgetting our address. His brain is an amazing thing!
Once he was out of the hospital, he started healing and his mental alacrity was returning, things started going well, he was working extra hard and getting back on track with school.
I felt we were getting back to homeostasis. Then one morning before my second job, my healing husband comes rushing into our bedroom. Normally he lets me sleep seeing as I’m usually pretty worn out from working so much. He shook me by my shoulders and said the EMT’s were on their way and my mom was having a heart attack. As I peered out into the hallway, the front door burst open and the EMT’s were there with their supplies. I followed them down the hallway to find my mother sitting in my writing chair, completely drained of color, unresponsive. There wasn’t time to panic, by this time the sheriff had come through the front door and was reiterating everything they had just told my mother in the bedroom. They said if it wasn’t an emergency, they would go to the hospital without the lights and sirens on. They usually do this as not to alarm the patient. While my dad and husband were getting ready to go to the hospital I quickly called my boss at my second job, trying to figure out if I should call in. I explained the whole thing about the lights and sirens and mid-sentence with him I heard the sirens blazing, my mother was in the midst of having a full blown heart attack.
When we rushed to the hospital, we sat with my dad trying to keep our cool. The doctor came in saying they had put a stent in the blocked artery and that there were three more blocked arteries that would need to be fixed within the next week. We went in to see my mother and she was already full of color and more energy than she had been in previous weeks.
Within the next week she was scheduled to undergo another surgery in which they were supposed to place the stents in. When the doctor went in, she tried to put the stent in place ripping the artery. Mom would need open heart surgery. I went in after teaching that day to see her and we talked with the surgeon, all was well, she was in good spirits. The following week she had a double bypass heart surgery and she came home as good as new; or so we thought.
Blindly believing that all was well and everyone was good at home, halfway through my teaching shift my husband called with the bad news that my mother had fallen at home and was on her way to the hospital again. Later we found out she had had a stroke as a result of the heart surgery. Needless to say she was in the hospital for a while. It was during one of the nights that I spent with her that we began to have fun with it and “dance in the rain”.
For the first time in a long time my mother asked to take a picture, not just any picture, but a selfie with me. She decided since she felt gross we should burn up my phone with pictures of her eating banana pudding to send to my aunts to determine how gross the pictures could get. My battery died and we resorted to talking about the different hallucinations she was seeing. She was seeing beach balls, tin type pirate ships, and at one point had even been seeing the cartoon characters I used to draw when I was a child. One of our last moments before we fell asleep went like this:
“Do you see them?”
“That tiny couple…”
“What do they look like?”
“They look like figurines…they’re Irish”
I gently had to explain to her, as my Aunts had done previously,, that she was seeing things and they weren’t going to harm her. I will always remember this moment in particular, because it was the first time we accepted things as they were and just went with it. I will always remember that…and the morning after when she accused the nurses of running a liquor bootlegging distillery upstairs, but that is another story for another time.
What traumatic life events caused you to examine your life a little more closely and appreciate the small moments?