Taking Leave

86 hours ago I got a phone call from a hospital nurse, telling me my 22-year-old daughter was in the ER with injuries from a car accident.
I have spent 80 of those hours here in the hospital with her. The first five hours I was here were spent in the ER waiting to find out the full extent of her injuries, standing by her bed watching her cry in pain, immobilized on the stretcher with a neck brace, not even moving her hands. I couldn’t even touch her, except for a few brief, teeny kisses on her forehead and to brush her hair out of her eyes.

I’m not whining. I’m recounting what has been happening. We are very lucky that none of her injuries are serious or permanent. Other parents are not so lucky. We may have six months or so of dealing with the aftermath of this, but six months out of a life are a drop in the bucket.
I have been here in this hospital, stressed, worried, scared, sad, helpless, sleepless, freezing, unshowered, unmedicated, useless, sober, and under-caffeinated. They unfolded a bench for me as a temporary bed which only makes my already tired muscles and back stiff. There was no sleep for the first 24 hours, and very little since then.  20-minute catnaps here and there have been a blessing.
          And I am absolutely sure that I have it the easiest out of any person here in this hospital, staff included. 
It is Sunday morning. It is now four days After Accident. We have had some big accomplishments: on Friday my daughter got out of bed and sat in a chair, then on Saturday she worked her way up to walking (with a walker and nurse support) to the end of the bed and back, then they all walked to the bathroom. Today, she ‘walked’ out into the hallway. And she pooped. (She didn’t want me to put that up as a Facebook status, so I made her a sticker for her to wear on her johnny that says, “I Pooped!”)
Last night, my mother came with my 11-year-old daughter (who has been with her since the night of the accident. THANKYOUMOMYOUARESUCHABIGHELP!) and I was able to go home and take a shower and change.
It’s not yet 7 a.m., and my daughter is sleeping. It even looks like she’s sleeping well. She got almost 2 and a half hours good sleep, and was able to go back to sleep after a wake-up for medication, vitals check, and trek to the bathroom.
We are working up to her getting moved to a rehab facility tomorrow, and are looking at 6 months to initial recovery. Lots to do and prepare for.  I should go to sleep, too.
I can’t sleep; I’m wired. I’m so overtired, I’m punchy. We have reached an in-between moment, the down time between that period of stress-to-relief and the beginning of resolve – the work, the nitty-gritty, the aftermath.
And I’m too wound up to sleep.
Nothing productive ever happens on a Sunday morning. Phone calls are out of the question – the businesses I would need to call are closed.
I’ve decided to ‘take leave’ for a little.  To let go of reality and amuse myself. Take a mental break. 
There’s nothing I have to do right now, and I’m going to have to buckle down in a few hours.
Hey, I can’t sleep.
(This is usually the time where I start planning my “I was unsupervised” defense.)

I don’t want to talk about my ‘feelings’. Already did (“One Mother’s Gratitude”). I’m ready to shake the Etch A Sketch and begin over.

I was fairly certain that no one here wanted me to start pushing any of the gazillion buttons around here, or playing with all the gadgets.
I’ve had my eye on this one for a while now. I’ve come up with at least 12 uses for it already:
So, I grabbed my cell phone and walked around.
Deren doesn’t want her picture taken (she has no idea how much it is killing me not to), so here is one of her feet under the blankets, with the walker in the background. When she has her own walker, she is planning to pimp it out. I’ll be buying pink tennis balls later.
The WOWs (I know they can’t be called COWs anymore) are parked outside my daughter’s room. Another temptation. Even moreso, because I know how to use them (if the nurses here knew that, they would have moved them by now).
This kind of shower should be in every home.  I’m not sure which excited me more: the bench, the dual showerheads, or just the lower level showerhead. Shaving and … showering would definitely be enhanced!

Because I was in the bathroom, I had to take a selfie, and nothing says “Classy Bathroom Selfie” like a bedpan in the background.

I went outside for a bit. On the sidewalk they have painted footprints – I’m not sure why, exactly, but they are there. So I measured my step against them. I figure the person who posed for these was a male who was about a foot taller than me. If I walked with my legs that far apart, the docs would be chasing me with a suppository.

This is Kathy. She can kick your ass in physical therapy and make you happy about it at the same time. She is the perfect blend of drill instructor and mother (not ‘mother’ like me). My daughter loves her.
This is actually kind of comical.  Her activity level is written as “not OOB yet” – not ‘out of bed’ yet. I read it as a reference to our upcoming vacation next month to Old Orchard Beach. (Okay, maybe it’s just me.)

I have been wearing these hospital fashion socks since we got in a room. It’s a good thing, not just because my feet are cold. If they were normal socks, I’d probably be ‘skating’ in the hallway.

This is —
Damn. I was just getting into it.
My daughter’s father just got here. There’ll be more visitors, more therapy, and more to do.
Back to reality.
Hope I sleep, next break.
(For your sake, too.)

Thank you for playing!

One Mother’s Gratitude

Two days ago my daughter was in a car accident. Her little Honda Civic was T-boned on the driver’s side by a Ford F150 moving at about 45 mph.
She is my firstborn. I remember when I held her for the first time; within five minutes I was completely aware of an overwhelming fear of the responsibility I immediately felt for her. I’d spent the last two months of my pregnancy impatient to deliver her, and in those first five minutes I was ready to put her back for a little while longer.
I had so many nightmares that first year as a parent. Every new experience was preceded by at least five mental scenarios highlighting how many different ways the situation could go wrong.
Eventually, I calmed down somewhat. Somewhat. At least on the outside. I was able to pretend to be totally excited for her when she got her driver’s license, and would ignore mental scenarios every time she drove away on her own – the worst one being the one where she got hit on the driver’s side.
And it happened.
And all I feel right now is gratitude. She has multiple rib fractures, a partially collapsed lung, and her pelvis is fractured in two places, front and back. She has spent the last two days relatively immobile, hurting to breathe and unable to rest comfortably – the rib fractures are on her right side and the pelvic fractures on her left, so she has no ‘safe’ spot to lie on; even the smallest movement hurt. She’s probably only had 3 hours total of sleep. Just today she was helped to get up out of bed for the first time and use a walker to cross a foot of space to a chair where she ‘had’ to sit for 45 minutes, in pain the whole time.
She was knocked unconscious on impact. She remembers up to two seconds before the accident and then nothing until she woke up in the ambulance.
I had no information about any of the accident until last night when someone showed me the article in the local paper. I saw the picture of her car and found out that she was trapped inside the car and that “two sets of the Jaws of Life extrication tools were used to free the woman from the vehicle.”
(Isn’t it surreal to read a news item about someone you know? “The woman”? No, that’s my little girl!)
I’d imagined this happening many times before, especially in the last 6 years since she’s had her license.
And all I feel is gratitude. The worst-case scenario happened in the best possible way; she was unconscious while she was trapped in the car and didn’t wake up until she was secured, she will not need surgery, none of her injuries are permanent … and she is still here, with me.
I hate seeing her hurting. I’m afraid to touch her except for an occasional, hesitant caress on her forehead. I don’t want her hurting any more than she is and I’m afraid that I might touch the wrong spot and make her hurt more. I’m in awe of the competent abilities of the nursing staff and at the same time I hate them when they move her and it causes her pain. I want them to do what needs to be done, yet I want them to baby her.
Like that first time I held her, I’m also afraid to take her home because I don’t feel qualified to take care of her. She can’t walk by herself right now; it can take 10 to 15 minutes for her to get off the bed and onto a nearby chair, she can’t reach an arm out 6 inches to grab the cup of water and she can’t drink without a straw. She’s getting so frustrated at times at how much she can’t do. She’s angry at the pain.
I had to leave the hospital for a little while this morning. The handful of people I spoke to all wanted to know how she was doing. I went to the bank and was talking to my teller-friend and saw the picture of my daughter’s car again … and it all hit me – the stress, the pain, the fear, the resentment, the lack of sleep, the uncomfortable pull-out bed, constantly having to put a face on for my daughter … the late-night hospital Sanka, etc. All of a sudden I was crying – I mean, I think I was crying, blubbering like an idiot with tears pouring down my face … but I was happy, I was so very happy.
We will probably be here for another two days. After this, she may be spending a few days in a rehab facility.  She is still going to be hurting and I’m going to have to watch her hurting without being able to make anything better for her.
But she was in this car:
                                                 (Brockton Enterprise photo. http://enterprisenews.com/article/20160721/NEWS/160728993)
… and she is still here. No matter what else we have to go through, she is and will be okay.

Thank you … thank you … thank you

Thank You For Your Divorce

Yesterday I posted this picture of me and my parents on Facebook, but I neglected to mention how truly great this picture is – and not just because my hair looks fabulous.
What makes this picture especially great isn’t just that I’m with my parents at a family party: I’m with my DIVORCED parents at a family party. My father’s family. And this is nothing new to me.
They divorced more than 30 years ago, back when society was focusing on the ‘fall of the American family’ and worried about children from ‘broken’ homes. When mothers were just starting to be allowed to work outside of the home, and it was ‘a shame’ that single mothers ‘had to’ (thereby neglecting the kids) and ‘weekend fathers’ only took their kids to the movies.
They were among the pioneers, if you will, of the new structure of family when nobody knew how to handle it – including them.
I’ve said many things about both of them (and I’ve given them much to say about me, too!), and I’m sure I will say more, including what I want to point out now:
They may have not always agreed with each other’s decisions. They both moved on with remarriages and new lives. And they both still managed to remain our parents together. They were better than ‘just civil’ to each other, I’ve never felt like the breakdown of the marriage was my fault, they never used us kids to manipulate each other (even when their respective spouses tried to get them to), and they continued to be parents together during my highs and my lows (even when they disagreed).
They both showed up. Like real parents. Because they were real parents.
I hated the label of being a ‘child from a broken home’ – not because my home was ‘broken’, but because I was almost expected to fail, and I thought that was unfair.
A word about ‘broken’ homes: divorce doesn’t break a home; the events leading up to it do. Divorce is a remedy, like it or not. My parents did better by me by divorcing than if they forced themselves to stay together with the state their relationship was in.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for not putting me through that.  That would have really made our home broken.
I got to watch them rebuild themselves – that was, has been, and is an invaluable lesson. I can only imagine how they must have felt, not just going through the end of a marriage (in their early 30s with four kids), but going through it at a time that there was such stigma attached to it. That took courage.
Thank you for supporting me, together, and for your support of each other. Thank you for always being my parents (whether I appreciated it or not).
I was a child from a broken home. I am almost 50 now, so I can say with authority that if there is anything wrong with me (heh heh heh!), it’s not the fault of their divorce.

It is never too late to say ‘thank you’ to someone. This was a long time ago, I know, but it should still be acknowledged. This was not a failure.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for getting married and having me –

But thank you more, for your divorce.

Playing With Friends

I’m an adult now.
–Okay, I can’t even write that without giggling. I should qualify that: my driver’s license says I am, and my kids say I look like one.
Every so often I get to go out and play with my friends, my old friends from the old neighborhood and school (not just high school, but even before that). Little mini-reunions.
A word about reunions: GO. I don’t care if you ‘never hung out with anyone in high school,’ or if you ‘don’t care to see any of those people again,’ or even if you subscribe to the ‘no looking back’ theory. I hear some of you talk about being old, and it is never a celebratory statement. (I hate that, by the way, because we are the same age and I am not ‘old’!) The people of our past encapsulate whatever time period they were a part of. Collectively, they hold (in a sense) our youth; we, all of us together, are each other’s time keepers. Spending time with them in a group is like an injection of that youth, because we see each other as we were, and that brings out what we were at that time. Remember, too, that we now have the advantage about being very selective about which parts of our past we choose to dust off and bring out. Childhood without the drama. Pure, unadulterated childhood.
I won’t go on; this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this, and I’d hazard a guess that it won’t be the last.
How we started these ‘mini-reunions’ was sort of by accident. Many of us still live close to the area we grew up in. One friend that I knew from high school, middle school, and my old neighborhood was playing in a band locally. A few of us went to see him, and ran into a few other friends from school and we took a picture. The funny thing was that all of us in the picture had gone to middle school together, and the picture was posted on Facebook as a mini middle school reunion.
— To those of you that feel that the internet and technology have destroyed all forms of human contact and communication: keep an eye out for my rebuttal blog.
That first picture got a lot of attention and comments like How come no one told me? and When are you doing it again? After that we began planning these gatherings, and because we are at the age where when we talk about old friends we are combining all of them from every year and overlapping period, anyone who had anything to do with any of us is invited.
That was 3 years ago, and we’ve managed to squeeze in 5 or 6 of these gatherings since then, each one getting a little larger.
Last night we had another one of our mini-reunion gatherings. It was actually our biggest one yet, and extra special to me because an old family-neighborhood-school friend was going to be there who hasn’t lived in this state in a number of years (a big number – decades). And we had our ‘regulars’, ‘new regulars’ and even newer faces show up. Every time a new face comes in, it adds so much more to the night.
We all sat together at the table and talked. And laughed. And just enjoyed each other’s company the same way we did back then. As it got later in the evening, the crowd in the restaurant got younger, and they probably looked at us as if we were ‘the old table’, but we didn’t know it; we were just kids hanging out with other kids. And drinking legally.
I was bouncing around the table, taking pictures and trying to make sure I got a chance to get in on every conversation, but at one point I just sat there and looked around. It’s really quite a rush to be in that kind of space, seeing so many familiar faces together again, feeling that energy
If I were a filmmaker I’d recreate the same scene this way: the setting would be a school cafeteria, and all of us would be about 10 years old. The friends who brought their wives or boyfriends would be shown showing up separately, each another 10 year old bringing another ‘new friend’ to the table (they’d be holding hands as they came over – the ‘old’ friend a step ahead, pulling the ‘new’ friend on in). The conversation, though, would be exactly the same as it was last night, full of ‘remember whens’, talk about jobs, marriages, divorce, children, grandchildren … and life.
That’s what it felt like, sitting there and looking around the table. The odd dream of the blend of then and now, familiar faces with new stories. Time travel without technology. Every moment (past, present, and future) occurring at the same time. Proof that time is not linear but simultaneous, each period stacked one on top of the other like 45’s on a spindle, with easy access to whenever you want to be. The collapsing of time and space.
I still see all of us as we were, even if our conversation is more adult (somewhat). I feel me as I was when I spent most of my time with them, too. There is a happy surprise in seeing someone you haven’t seen in a while who, while they are talking about new things, does something or says something in a way that is old and familiar. They haven’t changed. We haven’t changed; there is just more to us.
But the best of us, the kid in all of us, is still there. And even if we find ourselves unable to incorporate that child into our adult lives, we still have the opportunity to visit him or her once in a while.
It’s rejuvenating.

Get it while you can.

The Pity Party

Tonight I got disappointed.
Not hurt, not beaten … just disappointed.
When I’m ‘on my game’ I’m a fucking cheerleader and downright annoying.
Correction: I’m annoying most days (it’s part of my charm). I’ll talk your ear off, and always about what I want to talk about.
I can argue the same point from at least 16 different perspectives (I can do better, but 16 is the average). This is what makes me most annoying to others – except when I’m viciously angry; I hear then that I’m quite hilarious (not to those I’m angry at, though – only the people that hear my rants).
Those 16 (or more) perspectives come from an intense desire to not be misunderstood. I use them always, when I’m trying to cheer you up and when I want you to listen to me.
My father gets the credit for that. I worked very hard to be understood by him, while desperately hanging on to my rose-colored glasses that he hated so much.
(I still have them, by the way.)
It was my first ex that gave me the title of Fucking Cheerleader. I truly believe that life is beautiful and that everything is going to be okay – even wonderful. He didn’t always want to hear that.
I will tell you the same thing.
Even if you don’t want to hear it.
Which is what makes me annoying.
Not because you say I am, because I don’t care what anyone else thinks – and that’s not defeat talking; that is the self-realization about whose opinion really matters.
And right now, I’m disappointed about something. Something truly stupid.
And I’m using more than my average 16 viewpoints to show myself that I really have no reason to be pissy.
And I don’t want to hear it.
It’s annoying.
Ergo, I am.
Do you know that when you’re upset about something, that it’s good to let it out? Set a timer, they say. Give in to your feelings long enough to get them off your chest, but not long enough to wallow. I planned to give myself the time it took to drink two beers, figuring that one of them – the time allotted or the alcohol itself – would do the trick. Or at least make me sleep.
Twice I got up to grab a beer.
I couldn’t even do that. I was too pissy to have a beer. How is that possible? I can’t even put the ‘party’ in a pity party? Lamest pity party, ever!
To my kids, my parents, my exes, my friends, and anyone else forced to listen to me when I’m trying to cheer you up: know that me being on my own receiving end of my pom-poms is much worse than you getting the brunt of it.
It’s really not a big deal, Susie.

Tomorrow is a new day, Susie.

These things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, Susie.

You have so much to be grateful for, Susie.

Shut the fuck up, Susie.
I think I feel better now.

Thanks for listening.