(Originally posted on Oct 26/09 on My Other Blog Page ... it is more of a story than my other crap, so I'm letting it live here)
I began my day the same as any other. Got up, showered, spackled and plastered (the make up kind). Got in my 2 tone baby/navy blue, 2 door Grand Am ... (oh, but I love that car) and proceed to work.
I am a teller. That is to say, this is what I do in order to earn money. I am 21 years old ... turning 22 in less than a month. Currently, I am living in an apartment with my boyfriend, Trigger. He's pretty... hell I'm pretty, for that matter. Though the events of the past two weeks have played havoc with my looks. I haven't been sleeping. I have cried a whole lot. It feels as though there is a grand piano resting on my ribs. The weight of it impedes my ability to draw breath. I am growing weary of the smell of hospitals.
After sitting my cash box down at my assigned wicket, I am summoned to my manager's office. She has been friends with my mother for close to two decades. I meet her gaze when I enter the room and realize there is a call holding ... a call that will herald the end of a life. "Is it over?" I ask. She nods toward the flashing line and hands me the receiver. "Hi Mum, I'm on my way".
The drive to my mother's house is going to take me 35 minutes. I am numb. I think that maybe if I stop for a coffee, it might snap me around. I am pondering the call I placed to Trigger before leaving work ... he's on his way too. I didn't expect that from him, but he's coming ... to support me. That's good. As I am pulling out onto the highway (coffee in hand) to head for the home of my childhood, the memories of the past 14 days flood my consciousness.
It's morning. I have just finished getting ready for work. I am puttering around finishing up my routine and the phone rings ... it's 7:17 am ... something shifts inside my head ... this will forever change my life. Trigger snatches up the receiver. " Hello?" long silence ... I hear him say ... uh huh ... oh my God!! Seriously? more silence ..."Yeah? I'll get her "- I wave my arms that I don't want to talk yet and gesture for him to get off the call. I don't know how, but I know what is coming ... I just know. He looks at me and says: "It's your step father ..." I cut him off "did he kill anyone else?". Trigger is highly confused and after sputtering for a few minutes he says: "no, nobody is dead, he's at the hospital. Your mom isn't even there right at this moment ... she seems to think he's going to be okay, although he isn't conscious - wait, how the hell could you know?" I shoot him a firey glare and say "he's an alcoholic, a cocaine addict and he has a Peter Pan complex ... it was only a matter of time. Where did it happen?" Trigger thinks about the comment for a moment before he answers. "Just before the school in your home town. He was supposed to be picking up your sister after her dance - she wound up catching a ride with a friend". This news hits my stomach like a speeding medicine ball. My sister is 12. I curse him under my breath. So close he came ... so terrifyingly close. "Was he alone in the car?" He nods his head yes and then says "but..." I brace myself. "There was another car involved ... a van full of kids coming from the dance. Your mom said their injuries were very minor". Fuck, I think to myself. Son of a bitch! He finishes by telling me Mom will call me from the hospital later with an update. I start to shake. He doesn't share my reaction and becomes annoyed with me and my emotional ways. I look at him with an expression of gravity. "If this man has had a car accident that has left him unconscious ... he will not survive it." Trigger scoffs and proceeds to leave for work. I follow suit.
Later in the day, my mother calls the bank and I am summoned to the phone. She explains to me that there has been little progress since her husband was admitted in the wee hours of this morning. He is still unconscious, although she has learned that he was in fact, lucid at the accident site. His blood alcohol level nearly triple the allowable limit and cocaine enough in his system to have been present and functioning in its intended capacity at the time of the crash. She has been talking to police more than doctors. I tell her I will be there as soon as I am finished with work and she blows me off. Tells me not to worry about it. She can handle things. I realize that the voice I am speaking to is not that of my mother ... my mother is essentially gone for the next few months.
Work complete, I make my way to the hospital. I locate the intensive care unit. Mom is not there. I ask a nurse for an update and she suggests I speak to my mother. Inside my head I am thinking that there is little point in speaking to her ... she is not comprehending what is taking place here. She is in shock and is looking at this through a long, dark tunnel. I make some calls. My sisters are with a neighbor. They are 12 and 10. Too young to have to deal with what is coming. My boyfriend is en route. My stepfather's best friend is too. This will be difficult. I find Mom. We talk for a bit and I am finally able to piece the story together. He was thrown from the car on impact ... out the passenger side window of the vehicle he had been driving. There was a hefty dent in the top of the door frame where his head hit. He landed in a marshy area just to the side of the highway. Apparently this was likely to cause pneumonia. He's been moving. This strikes Mom as a positive.
Trigger arrives and he and I go in to the ICU area. There he is. A man on whom I have focused so much negative energy, for so many years. A man I have feared. Hated. A man I told, just eleven short days ago to just go the fuck away, already ... do us all a favor and just disappear. I shake my head to purge my ears of my ill spoken words. He looks so broken. Half his head is shaved. There are tubes sticking out of him everywhere... as though he were the machine itself. I look to my spouse for comfort. His expression concurs... this is bad. Suddenly there is a tremor. It starts in his hands and moves throughout his entire body. (Later in the evening, I learn that this is known a "posturing" and it is not a good sign.) I can't stand anymore. His friend is here. He wants to come in - only two at a time ... I leave and he enters. I can not make eye contact with him. When he emerges several minutes later, there is no colour in his face. He looks for my mom, but she is not there ... then to me. He embraces me in a heavy hug and we both begin to weep. I realize somewhere in my mind that I haven't cried yet. "I don't want him to die ... he can't die" ... clutched in the arms of one of the toughest men I know, hearing him sob ... the flood gates blow off their hinges and I am done for.
When I finally get to speak to someone who can answer some questions, I learn that due to the shaking that his brain sustained, if he did not wake within the first 12 - 16 hours, it would be highly unlikely he would. Mom didn't seem to be able to accept this information. I spoke to the doctor about the movements and he explained that this is normally a sign of severe brain damage. I mention the fact that he had been awake after the accident and the doctor explained how this phenomenon occurs often in this type of injury. He proceeds to say that the drug abuse has further complicated his chances for recovery.
My fears confirmed and my world about to shatter, I convince my mother to let me take her home and we leave. I drive her vehicle and Trigger takes care of ours. He will meet me at Mom's.
The next two days are the hardest. Praying he'll wake. Begging him to beat the odds - one more time. Late in the day on Saturday, we have a conversation with his doctor. The decision is made. He is 96% brain dead based on their best hypothesis. We will remove him from life support. Mom and I decide that it can wait until his daughters have seen him, so we make the plan for Monday and bring the girls in on Sunday. My aunt has come at this point and she steps in as Mom's backbone. The hospital staff screws up this request and has taken him off several hours before our arrival on Sunday ... but he is alive. Oh God.
As I veer off the highway at the intended exit and begin to slow ... I realize that the problem I have been experiencing with my torque converter is still not fixed ... my car stalls out and I coast to the side of the ramp. I shake my fist at the sky ... you did this, didn't you??? Find that funny, do ya? Normally I would have to wait for the car to completely cool before it will start again ... but today, I attempt to start the car only a few minutes later - and vavoom ... we have ignition. Thanks.
I arrive at Mom's. When I enter, it is as though nothing has changed. It's loud and Mom is on the phone. She's in her flannel nightie. My aunt had gone home a few days ago, but is on her way back. She is just shy of 4 hours away by car. Mom seems ... absent. I panic. I don't know what to do. What do I do? Think! People need to be called, arrangements need to be made, insurance policies need to be cashed ... right? Is that what I do? The girls are at school. Better to leave them there for the day. Mom, do you need me? She's not even here. No, I will take over for now. I contact a funeral home. Locate our priest. Call ... well ... everyone. Boy - where to start? Mom's friend of a thousand years arrives ... a voice of experience. She whips us around and gets us moving in the right direction. I take Mom to the funeral home to prepare the obituary. We try to decide on a casket, then nix the viewing - after all ... the last two weeks have served that purpose. The pain in my chest is lightening its grip. I am slowly beginning to breathe. This experience is banal ... like I've done it on an assembly line my entire life. Time slows inside my ears.
The next few hours are a blur. I can't say for certain exactly how the day progressed. I know we went to the hospital. I know there were forms to sign and belongings to pick up. You know - I don't remember for certain if we saw him again ... but I think that Mom did. It was more like an out of body experience for me. During this process, I learn that it was the pneumonia that finally killed him. A blessing at this point. He could have lived on for decades in the vegetative state to which he had reverted. As callous as it may sound, at least Mom could get the insurance and try to move on with her life.
She came from it slowly. We all have.
This post, though a little on the depressing side is really nothing more than a commemoration of the lessons that needed to be learned from this terrible event. My step dad's friend swore off alcohol after he died ... and you know - he hasn't touched it since. We all thought this man was invincible ... not like a super hero, perhaps a little more like a demon. He had his redeeming qualities, though. He never got to see his girls grow up, never got to meet mine. He died at the tender age of 44 ... and for what? Such a waste.
Because the vehicle that he was driving that night happened to have a plate that was registered to my mom on it, she was dragged through court by the insurance company of the other vehicle that was involved. It was TEN years later when she was finally free of it. She suffered for so long because of this arrogant, self involved son of a bitch ... that it is tough for me to feel a sense of loss where he is concerned. Yet, oddly enough - I do. I struggled for a very long time with the guilt of my last words to him.
It's been fifteen years since this awful, yet merciful day. My sisters are 27 and 25. They scarcely remember their father ... not like I do, anyway. We celebrate and remember the good things, make fun of the quirky and do our best to glaze over the rest. The road has been long.
I offer this to you as a cautionary tale. Please - don't drink (or use) and drive... and don't let anyone you know do it either. The havock that you leave in your wake is not yours to bear - it is your family and the people who are left picking up the pieces of the lives you've shattered that suffer the punishment.