When it’s a tough road to hoe…
Today. Tonight , in fact marks the evening of the end of a portion of our family as we knew it. I had a wicked day of work that day/evening. I had just finished rolling fairly hard in jujitsu class. Leftovers were to be warmed for the night’s meals. This day last year landed on a Friday before the beginning of a new year, a leap year at that.
I stood in the ladies’ bathroom/dressing room after my Jujitsu class at Silver Fox BJJ in Butler. Jess was at the front desk at the time. Enrique was in. Sean was in and he and I had discussed about when he was going into Marine Corps bootcamp.
I realized I’d rolled some extra time with the second evening class and couldn’t wait to get home. I held my five-year old phone in my hand trying to see if my husband had messaged me. As I was about to message him, the phone went flying out of my hand landing facedown on the hard tile of the floor. It shattered the screen of the phone. And for the first time in my life my cellphone was not only broken; but the timing I realized later couldn’t have been worse. It was the first time a cellphone of mine had become inoperable in over eighteen years. It was since I’d had to purchase a cellphone to go to work down at ground zero where the World Trade Towers One and Two once stood.
The situation from before eight that night went from bad to worse. It took me two hours and four stores to find someone to fix my cellphone. Then I had to leave my phone with all my information stored in it at the store overnight. I’d actually commandeered a police officer to make certain I’d left my cellphone at the best place I could, that I could trust and to be fixed. He assured me everything would be okay. I breathed.
And for the first time in my marriage of then over 35 years, no one knew where I was in over two hours. I felt awful. I had a client dying, I prayed would make it through Christmas, and another one on the edge of death. Both, I’d been taking care of for nearly two decades. I felt my insides ripping. I kept breathing as I drove home at near quarter to ten that evening. This is when you yearn for an old-fashioned yet working pay phone. In all of this, as well I had gotten lost in looking for one of the specialty stores to get my phone fixed. I kept noticing I was so on edge, when normally I’m relaxed after a hard roll in jujitsu. It calms down all my nerves, even in exhaustion I can emerge with energy enough to want to be relaxed by rolling or boxing and the like. However, this night I felt like I was sliding on ice mentally. I pondered such a query of how I felt so unsettled.
Now, looking back seeing flashes of those couple plus hours I was unwittingly MIA from my family I remember the darkness of that night as I drove in earnest. The exhaustion of wanting to sit down, listen to my husband and children’s day and plans for their weekend. Sit and watch an old Star Trek rerun with my hubby, kids sometimes joining us in our living room, with our bunnies lounging with us on the floor next to us.
However, that night a year ago was the complete opposite. I came in the door apologetically to find our living room uncharacteristically pitch black. The kitchen sink light was on. The dining room light on full bright.
I called out, “Honey! I’m so sorry.”
The place was complete silence, as if I were all alone. I called out again, placing my equipment and dirty laundry from the workday, along with my jujitsu dirty gear on the living room floor,
“Norm! Where is everybody?!” Then I heard our youngest, “Mom Dad’s downstairs!” I responded back, “Laundry room? And where’s your sister?” She replied, “She’s in the dining room, studying. And Dad doesn’t feel good. He’s in the Laundry room.”
I then hurried my steps to the laundry room. And there he was, my husband, Norman leaning over the washing machine in agony.
“What the hell?! What?” I inquired.
He replied, “You got to take me to the hospital.”
“Where’s the pain?” I asked. He points and says, “But I’m going to clean the cages before we go.”
I responded, “No! lets go now.”
After that the pain seemed to abate as he demanded to finish evening chores and I watched him and listened to his day, yet at the same time trying to urge him to let me take him to the hospital. Every now and then, the pain would strike to his midsection as if someone just shot him near his solar plexus. I’d shake my head, knowing his stubborn streak wouldn’t abate either, along with the pain.
Finally, as our oldest still working on schoolwork and our youngest lending her phone to me and having our oldest share her phone with her sister, off I went to take Norman to the hospital. He told me to drop him off at the ER entrance as he was able to walk in on his own. I drove the five minutes back home from the hospital concerned with his condition and our children’s emotions.
That night of November 22nd, 2019 I never got out of my whites from work. I made certain the children were okay and laid on the couch with our youngest daughter’s phone on the coffee table next to me. Norman gave me blow by blow what they were doing and when. I’d sleep for three minutes, wake up, check the phone. Message back, check in when I intuitively felt I should. As near seven hours passed, he messaged me that the doctors wanted to discuss his test/scan results. I knew it wasn’t good. Its’ that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, before your heart drops to your feet.
I drove back to the hospital as the sun rose in the east. The air was clean. It was mostly clear out, pleasantly cool for November. Soon, I’d entered the ER entrance, and was directed to the room my husband resided in. He was nervous. I saw it. He knew his health was in trouble. Yet, he did not know the reality. The reality I would know within fifteen minutes of entering the ER. The reality of his condition, he would not know until two days before Christmas. And even then, the medical field would not deliver the news to him properly. As well, I refrained from telling him what I knew from those hospital reports that early morning, there in the ER. For it was not my place to tell him.
I acted as though it was all-natural science. And this, was merely a blip on the radar screen. However, I knew he might not make it through January 2020. Never mind, not seeing our oldest graduate high school in June 2021. I knew that was out of the question. So, I prayed for him to have a quality life for whatever was left. And for him to have minimal suffering. I texted a priest who has known me over the years, and a couple medical personnel. Letting them know what was on the horizon that would be soon become a dark abyss… a hole in my life.
I didn’t really cry for fear that would weaken me, and it would be selfish of me. For it was his life that was ending, not mine. And our children would not need to see a broken woman, as their father was dying. I refused to bring our daughters to tears with my feelings. I saw it as my job, that was to do all I could to stop the train from coming and taking out a quarter of our family unit. That was my mission, and I knew it.---Jody-Lynn Reicher