Monday, November 3, 2014

And I exhaled

For some reason that remains a mystery, I went back and read through some of my old posts from three years ago this month.

November has always been and will probably forever remain emotionally charged for me. I've had some trials and tribulations these past five years or so, and for whatever reason a lot of it went down in November.

This month holds a few days that I dread the approach of, a holiday that has always been a bittersweet one, my father's birthday, which overlaps with that bittersweet holiday this year and one day on the calendar filled with the painful irony of one of the hardest moments of my life.

November 14th.

To most people, it's just a day on the calendar that comes and goes without significance.

To some of us, it's a day prompting awareness campaigns about a disease that affects us or someone we love. It's World Diabetes Day.

To me, it's that day wrapped in painful irony, because on that day three years ago, my mother lost her first leg to diabetes. It was a day where everything changed in a year that held far too many other days where everything changed.

If you've ever wondered how many times everything can change, the answer is infinite.

If you've ever wondered if things can get worse, they can. They always can. Don't tempt fate.

2011 is a year that I would just prefer to be wiped from my memories. From the first moments to the closing minutes, that year was hellish. By November so much else had already happened, so many lives were altered, so many terrible awful occurrences had transpired.

Then that day arrived, the day that we had known was coming for while by that point, the day that we'd done everything within our power to avoid coming to, and it hadn't worked. There was no other choice, aside from imminent death.

I was scared for her, and I was angry. I was hurting but I was so numb that I couldn't even cry anymore. I'd long since run out of tears.

That morning, I'd shuttled my kids off to school. Entrusted my in laws with their care for the rest of the day, not knowing what the immediate future would hold. Insisted that I didn't need anyone to sit and wait with me. Walked into her room at the hospital to see the reality of it all had finally hit her. The unavoidableness washing over her. She had resigned herself to the necessity of it all, but hadn't begun to really wrap her mind around it until that day. She had also spent the better part of the prior two weeks heavily medicated to manage the pain, trading complete awareness for comfort. It was all worn off now that they needed things like consent forms to be signed and witnessed.

The gravity of it all sinking in, weighing on her, tears welled up in her eyes. I spent so much time trying to be stoic that morning, trying to push the tears back in, staring off out the window when I needed a second to collect myself.

I held her hand. Went on the walk down to pre-op with her and waited inside the tiny room as she was prepped for surgery. I sat there feeling useless, knowing that there wasn't a damn thing I could do to make any of this better for her. They gave me a piece of paper with a code for the surgery waiting room screen, assigned her a number for anonymity purposes, useless in a room where only three people were having surgery that day, only one for the amount of time she was in for, only one undergoing an amputation.

I kissed her goodbye, wiped the tears from her eyes. Told her I loved her.

I never knew if it was for the last time.

There were so many of those goodbye kisses. So many.

I sat there in the waiting room, staring at the screen blankly in a haze. It would be something like four hours, they'd said. At some point in that four hours, my husband brought my son to the ER. He'd cut his finger bad enough to need stitches and I was almost relieved at the distraction. His injury was minor and fixable, but it was sufficient to distract me from everything else going on, if only for a moment.

The places my mind wanders aren't generally good, and knowing what was happening inside that operating room didn't help. I needed the distraction.

On the long walk down the long hallway from the surgery waiting room to the ER, I passed a table strewn with leaflets. A small banner hanging from the front of it, indicating that today was World Diabetes Day. I chuckled unintentionally at the irony of it all.

Oh, I was aware. I didn't need some awareness campaign and its leaflets just now. Nope.

I went back to the surgery waiting room after making sure my son's needs were attended to, the waiting room that had briefly been occupied and was almost empty now. Just one man left staring at his randomly assigned number on the screen, urging it to change colors indicating the patient he was waiting for had safely made it to the recovery room.

My friend walked in, the one that I'd told I didn't need to come, the one that I'd told I would be fine. She hadn't listened and had come anyway.

She has no idea how grateful I am for that.

The hours ticked by a little faster with company.

Finally, the color on the screen changed and she was in recovery. My friend hugged me and told me to call her if I needed to. The doctor came in to tell me that the surgery had gone as well as they could have hoped. The blood vessels looked like they would be sufficient, but only time would tell. They wouldn't, but we didn't know that then. They'd get me back to see her as soon as possible. I shook his hand and thanked him, made the phone calls I needed to make, the phone calls that I'd never get in return later on.

And I waited.

When the nurse finally came in to get me, it had been at least another hour. I readied myself for what she might look like now, not really knowing what to expect, grateful for the long walk to the room she'd been moved to.

I took a deep breath and opened the door.

She'd made it, this time.

Things wouldn't get better for her or for us, but in that moment I wanted to believe that we'd been through the worst of it. I did believe we'd been through the worst of it. Nothing before then mattered anymore and nothing that would come in the future was known yet. The relief washed over me when I saw her smile.

And I exhaled.


  1. Every year I think things can't get worse, and I'm always wrong.

  2. Hugs to you. I know this part of your story is hard to tell. xoxoxo. Michelle

  3. I remember my grandmother's first step towards the last step. Also my grandfather's. So I can't imagine how that memory is to my mom, which is much closer to what it must be to you.


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