Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Call

I suppose everyone has received their own version of "The Call" at one time or another.  It might come in the middle of the night, waking you from a deep and peaceful slumber, rocking your world with the harsh jangling of the phone that jars you into instant alert status...then the news on the other end that shocks and startles. Some seem to avoid "The Call" far longer than others, being luckier in life and staving off the inevitable facing of mortality.  I am always surprised to speak to someone and find they are my age, or close to it, and have yet to find themselves with receiver in hand, speechless and shaky.  It would seem that by close to age 50, this would be the sort of experience that most everyone would have had, at least once.  Fate is kinder to some, it seems.

I have received "The Call" several times.  At 15 years old, I can still remember sitting in the dark near my mom, both of us just having spent several hours at the hospital as my Dad had open heart surgery, when the news came via the phone that my grandpa had passed away that very same day.  It was one of those post-midnight moments, heavy hearts burdened with concern already, now drawn further into the darkness of despair.

Ten years later, it was my husband who made "The Call" to me, having heard from my brother that my Dad had just passed.  I was alone at the time, as Dominick was working nights in Los Angeles, over an hour away.  It was, of course, another middle of the night ring that awakened me.  To this day I will never forget the chill I couldn't seem to shake as I sat on the end of my bed, realizing I wasn't ready for this, and knowing I had no choice in the matter.  At twenty-five years old, I still felt very much like Daddy's Little Girl, despite having been married six years already.  "What do I do know?", I asked myself, not quite understanding what I ought to be doing at that very moment.  I don't think I have ever felt more vulnerable.

There were other, far happier versions of "The Call", but they always seem to happen in the bright light of day, as if God were smiling as the good news of an impending adoption travel date were delivered.  So excited I could barely get the words out, knowing I must be somehow forgetting to ask the important questions but being completely unable to think of anything other than the face of our newest addition, these calls were joyful and dance inducing.  They somehow took the sting out of earlier, more heartbreaking versions.

Another Call was early morning, urging me to come quickly to my brother's bedside, warning I must hurry.  Following an hour and a half drive, I stood by his bedside as machines were clearly keeping him alive, but not for long, and the decision had to be made to let him slip away as I watched and held his swollen hand.

Tonight, or should I now say last night, for it is 4:30 am now, "The Call" happened again.  Coming in at a more reasonable 8:30 pm, this time, it was a horrifying story with an as-yet-unknown ending.  My mom was found on the floor of her mobile home, having fallen days prior and unable to get up without assistance, there she lay for who knows how long.  So grateful to Dominick's niece for thinking to run over and check on her after my mother-in-law was unable to get her to answer the phone.  Mom is alive, but in very bad shape at the moment.  After being taken to the ER, she was moved to the ICU late last night, and the doctor spoke at length about her condition, telling us the next 24 hour are crucial.  Critical questions were asked about end of life directives, should that information be needed, and I found myself fumbling for answers, the unexpectedness catching me off guard and feeling heavy tongued along with heavy hearted.

I have tried to sleep tonight, and managed to catch a couple of hours in between trying to bat away the horrible images that came to mind of my mom and the awful predicament she found herself in.


Unable to move.

Hour, after hour.

The panic she must have felt.

My mind flits around those emotions, and draws back in shame as I try to force myself to experience it through the power of imagination, as if my joining her even this way in her excruciatingly terrible time there on the floor is a form of much deserved penitence.  Why should I be spared that creeping terror she must have felt...and I have the luxury of only tippy toeing up to it and peering at it rather than fully living in to it.

I simply can not imagine how awful this was.

Travel arrangements have been made for me, a task harder than some might imagine unless they live in rural Colorado, five hours from the nearest larger airport.  Should I hop in the car immediately and drive the fourteen hour trek?  How long will it be before I can manage to find a flight out...and from where?  When all you can think of is "How fast can I be by her side?", and when you live where most seats out of the area at smaller airports are sold months in advance for ski season, this isn't as easy a task as you'd wish for at a time like this.  Finally, Dominick was able to book me a seat on a budget airline leaving Montrose today at 11:00, putting me at the hospital in Camarillo hopefully by 2:00 pm, where I can hold mom's hand, and remind her she is not alone.

She is not lucid right now, but the lack of another Call lets me know she at least made it through the night.  With bloodshot eyes I stare at this screen, engaging in the one form of "therapy" that has gotten me through many other challenging and traumatic times.  When I can't sleep, I write.  My mind wanders as I wonder just how many blog posts over the past 6 years have been written because I couldn't sleep and needed to purge my soul of something breaking me into little pieces.  Again, I feel I am not ready for this.  If she makes it, she is likely to be a very different person coming out of this experience.  There will have to be changes for her, and I have no idea yet what that might look like, or even how best to help her.  These situations are that much harder without other family members to help make decisions or offer suggestions, but for quite awhile now, it has been just she and I, no other living relatives are there to commiserate with, or to offer comfort.

There never really has been.

It has always felt very, very lonely.  How I yearned to face those "Calls" with another sibling who could be there...either my sibling, or one of mom's.  Instead, we try to wrap our heads around it all, leaning often on Dominick during these sad, awful times.  That man has been there through thick and thin for my family, and how I desperately wish he could be there physically with me as I walk into the hospital room tomorrow.  I know, without a doubt, that God brought us together so young because there was much ahead for me, and I could never have done it completely alone.

Josh is asleep on the couch, Dominick left him behind this morning despite his being ready to go in at 4:00 am to work with him.  We both know he will be struggling with this and my sudden departure.  He admitted last night that he was feeling nervous and anxious, and I will need to take great care to be in touch with him while I am gone.  It is harder on him not having a return date for me, which at this point I can't offer.  I just don't know.  We gathered round the table last night to discuss what this week might look like, what accommodations the kids would have to make, etc.  They all said I shouldn't worry about it, that they knew what to do and would be fine.  We created a short school game plan of things they could work on self-directed.  They reassured me, they encouraged me...they all offered to pitch in the help with my expenses, which we declined but which touched me deeply.  What an amazing group of young people we live with.

I told Dominick I am very fearful that we are entering a Time of Great Suffering.  I have felt it coming on for a couple of months now, and I am desperately hoping I am wrong.  In many ways, it feels as if we have been living a somewhat charmed life the past 13 years or so, as if God has smiled on us again and often undeservedly.  I can't tell you how many times I have pinched myself, as if to prove our life is "really real".  It has been hard, of course, with much to work through and a lot of sacrifice, but it has been rich and rewarding, with relatively little sorrow or anxiety in the mix.

Or maybe time does its magic and it just feels that way.

Regardless, we are definitely feeling precarious right now, many heavy concerns weighing on us.  Kenny's hard earned progress appears to be slipping in some areas, which is disconcerting, to say the least.  Work is still a very big looming question mark for Dominick in the coming months, which is downright terrifying when I let it bubble to the surface.  There are practical, every day matters to deal with such as renters who didn't pay for three months and are finally out...having left quite a mess, our house needs a new roof which is costly, and school books still need to be purchased, groceries still need to be bought, and Josh needs to stop growing taller so I don't have to keep buying him new pants!!  Nothing extraordinary on that list, but it weighs you down when you have emergencies keep arising as we seem to have the past couple of months, then you're trying to tamp down the panic over how best to help your aging parents when you struggle to meet every day needs, and when what they need is presence and you are so far away.  We are trying to plan ahead, to be pro-active and prayerful.  However, there is this sense of foreboding that is hanging over me, which I keep trying to shake but will not stop hovering.  Are we entering a time of far deeper challenge?  How can we meet the needs of so many who rely on us?  Will we fail those we love?

At moments like this one, it feels like we just can't do anymore, can't handle anymore.

For today, though, I will tackle but one thing...I will be there for my mom.  Everything else will be put aside, all other concerns pale by comparison at this moment.  I worry I can't be who I need to be for her in her greatest hours of need, I worry I won't know what to do or where to turn to find the help she might need...and accept.

And I will do my best to push aside all thoughts of her previous days, so I can focus on what is right before me.  There is work to be done, there is presence to offer.

I can do my penance later.


Jennifer said...

I have been a silent blog reader for almost a year, continually touched by your love for your family but never moved to comment until now. I will be praying for you this week. May God be with you, bless you and your mom, and give you strength to handle the road ahead.

Anonymous said...

Praying here!
Teresa F

Kathryn said...

Praying for you, your mom and your family.

Kathy W

Anonymous said...

Praying for you, your Mom and your family! Safe travelling....hope things begin to improve for her!

Anonymous said...

Praying hard for you, your Mom and family. God bless you all.

Lorraine. Oxfordshire UK

Anonymous said...

Just caught up with your blog -- love and prayers from Virginia.


Carrie DeLille said...

Love you much.