The last couple of weeks have been rough. February 18th L.A.’s mother went into the hospital because she was incoherent and her blood sugar was insanely high (600 or thereabouts). They stabilized her and took her to Depaul Medical Center. My grandmother had to go to the ER on the 20th but they released her – she was mildly dehydrated but otherwise in good order. I am thankful for that. The next day my Great-Aunt Judi was admitted to Maryveiw with severe stomach pain. Turns out she had acute pancreatic and a swollen liver. When it rains, it pours. It seems lately I am living in Seattle and no one told me.
Pain is life. Only the living feel pain but the scars the dead leave on the living are bitter things. Like memories burned in flesh.
I talked to L.A. today and she is doing as okay as someone in her position can. She has to be the most well adjusted person on the planet. I always knew she was one helluva a woman but it always surprised me when she shows me the steel in her spine. I still don’t know why. “Nobody wants to lose their parents.” She said to me on the phone while sorting through her mother’s things “They’re our life line. Our connection to where we come from. The only way anyone can really be immortal is through their children.”
See what I’m talking about? Solid. Fucking. Steel. I again told her I loved her, hung up, and went to get something to eat. I hate being diabetic. I can’t eat whatever I want and I sure as hell can’t skip meals. I did not want to eat. However, not eating invites unpleasant circumstances. I finished off some leftover’s earning my mother’s nickname for me “The Great Garbage Disposal” and came back to my computer to do the only thing I can do when I’m upset. I wrote.
The following is a mostly accurate rendition of what happened Friday night/Saturday morning.
I heard the phone ringing; I had gone to sleep early because I had damned near exhausted myself working on a car that day. Her ringtone, Sting’s Shape of my heart, played sullenly as I answered. The digital clock burning a red 11:41 into my cornea.
“She’s gone.” She said through a voice choked with tears.
Oh god, I thought. “Breathe love. Just breathe.” I whispered. As usual, my words failed me when I needed them most. She cried some more and I wanted to cry with her. “It’s okay.” I said knowing it was hollow when I said it.
“I have to go say goodbye. They’re expecting me.”
“At Maryveiw?” I asked.
“Yeah. But I think they are only letting in family. I’ll call you later.” She said.
“I love you.” I whispered into the receiver. Meaning it with every part of my being - we are soul mates she and I. When she cries, I cry. When she hurts, I hurt. When she’s happy, I’m happy. When she’s angry, I’m angry.
“I love you too.” She said and then hung up.
Turning on the light I felt numb. I got up and walked to the living room where my sister and aunt were watching TV. I sat in the recliner and just stared off into the dark TV-lit room. I heard a voice distantly asking what was wrong and I remember saying “Laurie’s mom just died.” The next thing I know my aunt is shaking me, crying, and holding me. “I have to get to her.”
“Oh thank God you’re okay Christopher. You weren’t talking or anything. You were just staring. I shook you and you didn’t say anything.”
“I have to get to her.” I repeated and stood shakily. I went back to my room, put on the old clothing from the day, and grabbed some food, water, and medicine. I knew Maryveiw was a long way from the house but that didn’t matter. I had to figure out how to get to her before she got to her mother. She was going to need me. I started walking. Every step was like fire. I went into a daze and just kept moving. Thirty minutes into it, I knew I would need to speed up to get to her. I started running. The agony I felt in my lungs and legs, especially my right leg, was like sticking a body part into a fire and keeping it there. I pulled out my asthma inhaler and stuck it in my mouth and continued running pushing a dose every five minutes or so.
I got to the hospital some time later. The security guard instantly looked at me suspiciously. I must have given him my “Don’t Fuck With Me” face because he flinched and took a step back. I went over to the water machine and downed a small river before going to the bathroom and toweling the sweat off my face and neck. Coming out composed, I went over to an attending nurse.
“Hi. My…spouse’s mother has died I need to be directed to her room please.”
“Name?” she replied absently.
I told them her name and the guards face went from go-go suspicious mode to instantly (and genuinely) sympathetic. His nametag read “Fulton”
“Are you here to claim the body?” the nurse asked. I shook my head.
“Her daughter, L.A. isn’t here yet?” I asked
“No. No one has come yet. Do you want to claim the body?” the nurse asked again.
“No. That is neither my burden nor my right. I’m here for what comes before and after that.” I sat down in the waiting room. Across from me an older gentlemen wheezed in a wheelchair on oxygen. He looked at me with eyes that said he knew he was dying. A young girl and her mother sat across from me. I must have kept the “Don’t Fuck With Me” face on because the guard came over and asked me to go with him. I did. He said I had been scaring some of those waiting for treatment and took me to their “Quiet Room” to sit.
I stared off into the distance. The guard brought me a huge cup of water and I thanked him. He stood there for a minute unsure what to do and then left. I sat down in a chair and stared at my hands, which still shook from the sheer exertion I had put on my body. I have never been a runner or even a long-distance walker. I hated doing it to be honest. But I would climb out of Hell itself for L.A.
Minutes later a chaplain came in. “Hi! I’m Chaplin Beatrix.” Her nametag said. She sat in a chair to my right and I nodded my head as she came in. She started asking me questions and I did my best to shoe her away but she persisted. Finally, I told her I’m more-or-less an atheist and she nodded and said it didn’t matter. I wished there were more clergy like her. She continued to talk to me for several minutes. Nurses and doctors passed me. I stared off into space still numb. I didn’t know how L.A. was going to take this.
“She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met you know.” I said to the chaplain.
“Who? Your spouse?” she said. I nodded.
“If she can survive the loss of her mother she’ll become indestructible. I’ve always feared that one thing for her.” We sat in silence, the chaplain trying hard to assure me it would be okay.
“This way?” I heard L.A.’s voice say and I stood going to the doorway. Her eyes rounded in surprise when she saw me and she grabbed me hugging me close.
“You’re here?” she mumbled against my ear.
“Where else would I be?” I replied giving her a handkerchief for her tears. She hugged me harder and I moved out of the way to let her in. Her uncle and my best friend, C.G. were there. I hugged her uncle because the old man looked like he was about to burst into tears. Then he did. I gave him a handkerchief too because one always carries a spare.
“How did you get here?” C.G. asked.
“I walked.” I replied. “She needed me. I came running. Literally.” He nodded as if to say he would have done the same. I knew he would have if he had needed too.
The chaplain began talking to L.A. and I sat quietly. She handed her this TARDIS blue folder full of information and then she lead us through the confusing labyrinth of passages that makes up the ground floor of Maryveiw Hospital. I ignored the pain in my legs and kept walking. I could suffer tomorrow. She needed me now. We eventually made our way to the ICU and her uncle stopped before actually going in. He stayed in the waiting room. It was too much for him. The nurses staring at us like meerkats as we passed by. The chaplain stopped at a room and then waited for us to enter. L.A. went first removing her messenger bag and coat, then C.G. did the same with his coat, and then I removed my jean jacket and bag. Past the curtain, lay P.S. L.A. started crying and went to kiss her dead mothers brow while the rest of us stood around looking useless. She sat down in a nearby chair and cried some more. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. I felt helpless. I hate that feeling. Behind me, C.G. teared up and I tried to hide my own tears as I forced myself to look. P.S. body was there but whatever animating force that powered it was gone. It was the first body I had seen since my father died. I felt sick and numb again. L.A. said her goodbyes.
“I guess I should go.” She said.
“Are you ready too?”I asked.
“Then sit back down until you are.” She plopped back into the chair again and sat there crying softly. I hate those tears. The way she looked when she cried…it broke me a little inside.
She stood up again after a few minutes hugged her dead mother and then left. C.G. helped her get her coat on and I leaned over P.S.’s body and whispered into her ear.
“I’ll protect and care for her. We (C.G.) both will. I promise. We promise.” I got my jacket back on and then we left. Another trip through the confusing hallways and myriad doors and we were back in the ER. I didn’t have to walk back home thankfully; C.G. has borrowed his mother’s minivan. The ride back is quiet and the march back up my driveway is a slow one. The adrenaline is gone and my willpower is exhausted. I cannot hold the pain back anymore as I limp to my room. I drop a couple of Tylenol and pull out my bottle of aged whiskey. Since I started taking insulin, I rarely drank anymore. I downed some of it, went to the kitchen, and made a sandwich. I ate and drank in darkness before I went back to my room. I sat for a long time just thinking. Finally, I lay down in my bed and began to scream into my pillow. I let the tears come. I welcomed the pain. After calming down I finished off the bottle and looked at the spare I kept in my sock drawer. It was unopened. Not going down this road again, I said to myself and shut the drawer. I started reading a book on my phone but between the medicine, alcohol, and exhaustion I was quickly falling asleep. My phone chirped out the instrumental beginning of Shape of my Heart letting me know I had a text message from L.A. “Just home.” It read.
I texted back “Get some sleep.”
“Not going to try yet.”
“Well I love you. Nighties (Daysies?)” I texted, the old joke from my teenage years.
“Either or.” She replied. Like always.
I passed out then preferring the night terror that I knew was coming to being awake. Sometimes you just got to run in the dark.