July 17, 2011
July 17. We are almost one month into summer and I am waiting for it to make it’s arrival. I know in August we will probably have a few 90+ degree days. Then, I will look back on these cooler days and long for them. Right now it is 7:27 p.m. here at Steve’s house in Issaquah. I hear and see the rain. I feel it.
I feel the summer of 2009 building in me. There is nothing I can do to block it.
June 25, 2009. Michael Jackson died. The news of his death was all over CNN—the only station Dean could tune in from the tv in our hotel room in
. I laid on the bed after a nice hot shower. We had just finished a bike ride from Prague to Dresden . I was tired. Dean was flipping channels, trying to find something in English. CNN was the only channel he could find. Dresden
As I turned on my side, laying there half asleep, I heard the announcer break in, “Micheal Jackson, was just found dead in his Holmby Hills,
home. Mr. Jackson apparently suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon. Paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived California had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.” Jackson
In the days that followed, I watched the world mourn, setting candles and flowers and photos of Micheal on curbsides and corners, against masonry walls. Michael Jackson, the most successful entertainer of all times according to the Guinness Book of World Records and Wikipedia, died from prescription drugs. Drugs his doctor had prescribed.
It was then it hit me. It was then I knew. The drugs you were taking were killing you.
It wasn’t the Lyme disease. It wasn’t MS. It was not lupus. It was all the crap that you swallowed and then put into your port. Drugs the doctors gave by IV—morphine, dilaudid—every time you were admitted to the hospital. It was the port they surgically implanted in your chest allowing you to inject liquid medications. Morphine pills you crushed, dissolved, pushed through your veins into your heart. The talc collected in the capillaries of your lungs, filling them, talc turning to cement. Until eventually, you could not breathe.
It is 8:29 p.m. Gray clouds have given way to blue sky. In another hour it will be dark here. I do not want to write about this. I do not want this memory. It picks at me like I pick at a scab over a large wound that has no feeling. Lifting a brown crusted corner, there is blood. It oozes out and down. I bleed out a little at a time. It is the slowness of the memory, the way it replays itself over and over that makes me crazy.
June 29, 2009. After I was back at
and through customs I turned on my cell phone. For two weeks it sat in my suitcase, off. The green light in the corner blinked. I had one message. It was from you. I could find you in room 408 at St. Joe’s Hospital. Sea-Tac Airport
You saved all the hospital id bracelets from January 2008 to your death. They filled a pink plastic hospital washtub you brought home from one of your stays. I found others in your underwear drawer. Littering your desk. Wrapped around the gear shift in your Volkswagon Beetle.
St. Joe’s, St. Pete’s, Good Sam, Madigan, Allenmore, Evergreen, St. Clair’s.
You were frantic with pain. Each place would hook you up with a morphine drip while they tried to figure out what was causing your pain. When they could not determine its source, they called you a drug addict, unhooked the iv, and pushed you out the door. Once in awhile a doctor would admit you. Especially when you started having “seizures” and blacked out because you could not breathe. Until those last admissions at Good Sam, there was always the morphine and dilaudid. Every few hours, right on schedule, a nurse would show up with your next dose. Doctor’s orders.
I would watch you as you drifted from consciousness. Your breathing turned shallow, sometimes it would stop. And then, just as I was about ready to start mouth to mouth and call the nurse, your autonomic reflexes would kick in and you would take a breath and return to normal breathing…
July 24, 2011
I couldn’t breath. Writing about those last weeks before your death.
I have missed many literary moments this week sitting in this maelstrom of feeling. Every nerve vibrates until they crescendo. And then I am one nerve, every sensation concentrated, distilled. I braid those moments methodically, waiting until I am released again into the abyss where memories reside.
Until then, I store up energy. I take in everything around me. A phrase in a song, my most recent idea for becoming crazy rich and famous (I crave attention, but then again don’t we all?), watching a seedling, freshly broken from the ground, twitching—reaching for the warmth of sun, listening to Steve as he is sleeping this lazy Sunday afternoon, the caw of a crow, a flotilla of geese in twos and threes floating by, carried on currents I can’t see, checking the shore for food and cover, the smell of laundry as it hangs in the sun drying, pictures of Annalise and Alicia my niece sends me on the cell phone. I try to create new memories. They do not replace the old.
I will write what I need to write when I am ready.
I was worried about the drugs. From my perspective, it was not the Lyme disease that was killing you. It was the “treatment”. It was the arguing in the medical profession about whether or not you even had Lyme disease. In the meantime, I was helpless. Mom in the middle. When you were scared and confused, when you were in pain and not receiving relief, it was me you lashed out at. Always demanding the perfect mother appear. The one who knew exactly what to do and what to say and when to say it.
I was never that mother.
I was only the mother who loved you.
“Really mom?” you stared at me contemptuously, “You think I am a drug addict.”
“No,” I defended myself, tried to make you understand, “I do not think you are a drug addict. I think there is a problem with the drugs you are taking.”
You would not talk to me for a whole month.
July 2009. I did not hear from you as drove your silver VW bug to the ocean, passing the exit to my house. I did not hear from you as you hiked on
Mt. Rainier, played at the , partied and drank heavily with your friends. I had to ask your sister, your friends, if they’d seen you, how you were doing. Nisqually River
You called me from your patio. I could hear water running in the background. Sadie was barking. You were waiting for the Graham Fire Department to arrive. It was over 90 degrees out. You’d passed out and cut your head. I tried to remain calm on my end of the phone as I talked to you while you cried hysterically, hiccupping.
“There is blood all over.” You told me.
“Where are you bleeding from?” I was trying to project calmness. Every nerve was vibrating.
“I passed out.” You said.
“Can you move?” I took in a slow deep breath. Closed my eyes.
“The water is on. It is running everywhere.” You answered.
I could hear sirens in the background. The knock on the door, Medics calling out, Sadie barking, you crying, crows fighting in my yard.
“You’re going to be ok.” I tried feebly to comfort you from my end of this telephone call, over one hour away from you.
You remembered you were angry with me. “What part don’t you get Mom. It is 90 degrees outside. The water is running. I passed out, blacked out. I am bleeding. My head hurts. I am not o.k. and I am not going to be o.k.”
She is my daughter. She is sick. I love her. This was my mantra as I said, “It sounds like the medics have arrived.”
A man spoke, “Who is this?”
“I am Andrea’s mother.” I answered.
“We have her now.” He told me. The phone clicked. Call ended.
I did not get a chance to ask which hospital they were taking you to. I waited for that call.
It seems at times like these I am still waiting. As I am still trying to come to terms with your death. I mourn in increments. I mourn in private. I ache for space inside myself to mourn. To let the sadness overtake me. I have learned too much control. Or have I?
Thinking out loud here, I guess what I am really looking for is balance. Where I can absorb this death of you.
Where I can live in these moments as I wait to find out for myself what is on the other side of this life.
KPLU is playing jazz on the radio here next to me. It is 8:39 p.m. I am thinking of going to bed early this warm summer night. I look up and see pale blue sky, striated with salmon pink clouds, through the stand of trees outside the window I sit in front of. I look down and up again in time to see the clouds and sky turn the color of old bruises.
What I see in any given moment depends on timing and perspective.
I breathe deeply. Feel the air fill my lungs. Fill my senses with a stand of black green trees, the color of sky as this day ends.
When I climb back in bed with Steve, he will wake slightly, “Hey Sugar.” He will mumble. I will roll over onto my right side so he can pull me into him. “You o.k.?” He’ll ask.
“I am fine.” I will tell him. Because at this moment I am. I will close my eyes and remember filling my senses with sky colors at days end.
You are everywhere.