A Bitter Change of Season

It is my hope that this blog isn’t going to become an anthology of depressing stories from my life, although that seems to be the way of things, lately.

My younger, and only, brother passed away the night before Thanksgiving. Died. As in, ceased to live on this earth.

Even as I type those words out, I can scarcely believe them.

But I was there at the hospital when it happened and I know them to be absolutely true. He had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance that morning. I had spent most of the day in the surgical waiting room with my mom, awaiting word from anyone wearing a set of scrubs who could tell us what was happening.

Blood in his abdomen. Emergency surgery to find out why. By late afternoon, we knew of the aneurysm that ruptured near his spleen. For a very short time, we held on to the belief that things would be okay. The bleeding was controlled… until it wasn’t. For hours, the surgical ICU staff fought their best fight, bringing unit after unit of blood and platelets like swords onto a battlefield.

By late evening, they were still unable to stop the exsanguination—he was bleeding from everywhere, they had never seen anything like it—and his organs began shutting down. We were left with the option to keep trying, recognizing futility in the knowledge that he would be brain dead, or we could tell them to stop their aggressive efforts and let nature take its intended course.

Standing in front of my mom, holding her hands in mine, the same knowing expression reflected in both of our faces… we chose the latter.

“What else is there to do?” I remember how her tearful words cut through the silence as eight doctors stood, eyes downcast and bodies frozen in suspended animation, knowing just as we did that there was nothing left to do.

I will never forget that night as long as I live. The amount and complexity of the machinery that surrounded him. The staccato, repetitive track of beeping that kept time with the shushing, rhythmic utterance of his ventilator. The echo of footsteps as doctors shifted around his bed in choreographed motion. The way he looked, swollen and alien and silent as death.

The world around us was still as I hovered at his bedside. Medical instruments continued to automate his breathing but I knew—with absolute certainty—he was already gone. Where? I could only wonder.

He slipped away a little after 9:30 that night.

I want to know why. People who should have died a long time ago are still here. People who have done horrible things are still here. People who want out of their lives are still here, ready and waiting for Death to beckon at its earliest convenience.

My brother had everything to live for. Why did he have to go?

I can’t seem to find any answers to that question and I don’t believe I ever will, save for life can be cruel and the lesson is in how we handle ourselves whenever it is.

To be honest, I’m not handling it well. This internal and constant seething rage is something I’ve never felt before. I’ve been trying to stay active, trying to do all of the things I used to do before November 25th. I did some stuff for the PTO at school. I put some lights out around the porch for the holidays. Even put the reindeer antlers on my car. I have not done a lick of shopping and it’s December 19th, but that’s typical of me this time of year.

Sometimes I spontaneously cry while I’m driving, lost in thought. Or now, while I’m writing. I hadn’t written anything in weeks, until a few days ago when the urge struck like lightning. I realized I needed to do *something* productive and gods know I hadn’t submitted anything new to BLUNTmoms in a while. My novel… its characters and story line have finally started calling me back and it’s a welcoming sound. A new work, a children’s book, is beginning to form into something tangible.

I have things to focus on. Direction. Purpose.

I needed this sort of normalcy more than I could have imagined. And I know I have to keep moving forward or else I’ll drown before I can set foot on the shore.

“Fake It Till You Make It” is officially my new mantra. Go through the motions pretending you’re okay, and eventually, you will discover that you are.

I hope.

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The Importance of Labels

I have a plastic box with an airtight lid and it’s full of all sorts of baby memorabilia I’ve held on to for over twelve years now. It contains two babies’ worth of well-protected treasures: first haircut clippings, going-home outfits, ultrasound photos, belly button stumps (don’t judge me), hospital-issued newborn hats and long sleeved tee shirts that I accidentally-on-purposely smuggled home in my backpack, ID bracelets, and other miscellaneous things I thought were important when I placed them inside.

Disorganized though it may be, it’s a coveted time capsule that I greatly cherish. Every now and again I like to open it up and poke around at the contents within, smiling to myself as I reminisce about those golden days of yore. It’s like being transported backward through time. When I close my eyes I see snapshots taken from idyllic memories that have remained frozen in suspended animation all these years; perfect moments that came and went long before my two daughters were able to say things like, “You’re such an idiot!” and “Shut UP! I’m telling Mom you said that! MOMMMMMMMM!”

When I was cleaning my bedroom closet one afternoon, I found myself sitting on the carpeted floor, taking a break and sifting through my box of baby treasures once again. My older daughter, Doom, crept up from behind and her eyes lit up when she saw what I had before me.

“Is that my baby stuff?” she asked with excitement.

“Yep! Yours and your sister’s,” I replied.

“Cool!” She sat down next to me and began pulling things out to inspect them, including a snack-sized Ziploc baggie containing what looked like a flattened raisin. I beamed as I informed her it was a belly button stump. She dropped it like a hot potato in favor of two of what looked like adult-sized socks with the feet cut off, each one fashioned from soft ivory fabric that was gathered and tied with a string of yarn at one end.

She held them up, one in each hand. “What are these?”

“Those are the little hats they put on you guys right after you were born!”

“Cool! Which one was mine?”

With a broad smile still plastered on my face, I paused for barely a second before declaring with absolute certainty that THIS one was her hat and THAT one belonged to her sister.

Truth is, I had no fucking idea which one was which. Since both girls were born in the same hospital, their hats were nearly identical. Was it the shorter one with the white string? Or did she have the longer one with the weird discoloration on it?

Fuck me, I just couldn’t remember.

How could I forget such an important detail? One of these items was the very first hat that would ever be placed upon her precious little head, and I’m a shitty mother because I don’t know which one it was.

When my girls were babies and toddlers, I hadn’t yet realized the importance of labeling things. That’s a lesson I didn’t learn until both of them were in elementary school.

Around this time of year, kids across the country are busy making Christmas ornaments at school. Seriously, I think that must be the only thing they teach in December because not only is my tree completely covered in handmade decorations, but I’ve got paper wreaths, poinsettias, and stockings out the ass.

When my younger daughter, Destruction, was in kindergarten she brought home the exact same Christmas crafts her sister had done three years previously and I thought, “Awwww! This is so great! I’m going to have two of everything and my tree is going to be covered with ornaments that my kids made by hand!”

I promptly hung her decorations on the tree alongside her sister’s. The differences were so obvious! Destruction always loved to use way too much glue so it was glopped all over everything and had dried like white icing on her construction-paper-cone tree. She had a thing for glitter so her pinecone ornament looked like it was trying to masquerade as a disco ball. Destruction’s paper dreidel was colored in blue and yellow marker, which stood out in stark contrast to the blue and yellow crayon that Doom had used on hers.

The tree was a thing of beauty, full of handmade love and priceless childhood memories.

Fast-forward to the following December. I took out the special box of Christmas crafts. One by one, I began placing them on the tree.

And then I stopped in my tracks.

Was this Destruction’s beaded candy cane, or was it Doom’s? I think Doom’s pattern was red-red-white, red-red-white. Or maybe it was the white-white-red. Shit. Construction-paper-cone trees… they both used an insane amount of glue and macaroni. Both pinecones had lost most of their glitter. OH MY GOD, WHOSE DREIDEL IS THIS? THEY’RE BOTH BLUE AND YELLOW!

From that point on, every work of holiday art or craft that entered our home was labeled immediately upon arrival, in an inconspicuous place using a permanent marker.

Then I went back and labeled all the previously-made decorations as best as I could remember. Or guess.

Mostly, I guessed. I had a 50/50 chance of being right, right?

Learn from my mistakes and let this story be a lesson to you. When you’ve got more than one child you always think you’ll remember who created what because every piece of art is as unique as the snowflake who made it. You’re their mother, how could you ever forget?

Label that shit. Right now. I guarantee that by the time next Christmas rolls around, you’ll be wracking your brain trying to remember whose popsicle-stick-reindeer is whose. They all fucking look the same!