The subject of today’s writing I’m not going to post, nor should I, I don’t believe.
I’ve been working on a video project that will post Sunday on my good friend Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother . In the process of editing tonight I was foraging through a hard drive for video and pictures I can use to supplement what’s been shot already. In the process I stumbled on a lot of things.
Some just made me smile. Where even a year ago I might have teared up and opined the loss of my wife and the kids’ Mom, the picture you see here of our first, my oldest, Abbi, in a hat and holding her Mom’s Organic Chemistry book just made me smile. It’s a happy, pleasant memory. I’ve moved to the place, I guess you could say, where the little things that used to make me despair are no longer fodder for my emotional instability. I don’t lose it with a picture or a song like I did a year ago . . . which seems like an age ago now.
These little reminders show me what I had, and while the closer I edge toward the 26th of March the more affected I am, I didn’t break down like I used to.
But the haunting images that really hit me came in a folder I didn’t remember making nor do I remember having transferred them to my hard drive at all. In fact, it’s pretty amazing to me that in the days and weeks after Andrea died I didn’t erase the files altogether they are so hard to watch.
Andrea went into the hospital on a Tuesday morning. That night the kids made Get Well cards that the hospital unceremoniously dumped into a trash bag with Andrea’s dirty clothes and shoes and all after she died. When I picked up the stuff to remove the old clothes those cards were in the bottom and they were so hard to see, so pleading in their tone that I couldn’t look at them. I had to have my Mom deal with them.
Last night, though, I found videos. I only vaguely remember making them. The second night . . . Wednesday night . . . things were the same as Tuesday, we thought. I told the kids I’d spend the day in the hospital again. They asked if they could give her a message since they weren’t allowed in. (She had pneumonia, her leg had been infected, which turned into cellulitis and because of that they were only allowing a few people in because they didn’t know what was infecting her leg.)
That night, you have to understand, is when it all went to hell. At 2am they called and told me she’d gone into respiratory arrest. I barreled down to the hospital and spent the entire next day talking myself hoarse because she was in an induced sleep. In an effort to ease the sore throat I played the videos to my wife.
Last night it was like a train screaming down the track at me. Like I was hypnotized by the cyclops light of the diesel engine as it trundled toward me with hulking speed. I looked as Hannah asked her riddles and told her how much she loved her. Sam was awkward and said he loved her. I urged him to give her a kiss and he blew her a kiss.
Then came Noah’s.
Noah, you see, still has the hardest time dealing with the grief. He acts out without knowing why. It’s a trauma he’s faced but doesn’t know why it’s affecting him. Put in that context, seeing his face on the computer screen was the worst thing I’ve faced in the last year. His eyes were already watery.
“I love you mommy . . . . sooo very much.”
He wipes his eyes with the interior of his elbow.
“I miss you more and more every minute of every day, Mommy. Please get better.”
Then he finally can’t hold it in and starts to cry.
You can hear me try to encourage him. I tell him to give Mommy a kiss and he rushes up and gives the camera a real kiss. then he ducks away, sad, tearful, and I turn off the camera.
It’s not the video. It’s not even the content or context, I don’t suppose. It’s that in that particular moment, right there, I can see the fear and the panic and the sadness before the worst had even happened. I can watch that and know to myself that less than three days later I came home and confirmed the worry and panic I saw in his eyes. It’s not what he says, when kids are sad or pleading, sometimes it’s cute. This isn’t cute. This is horribly painful to watch and I couldn’t stop.
I shut it off. I could have erased it, I suppose, but I didn’t. I shuffled the files back into the little hard drive attic from which it came and shut down the computer. I knew I wouldn’t get any more editing done tonight.
I kissed him and Sam good night again on my way to bed, before sitting here to write. As a Dad, I want more than anything to make that go away for him. That’s what hurts. It’s not my loss, or that Andrea’s gone, it’s that I could see the foretelling of the next two years in the 30 seconds on the screen.
But tonight he’s okay. He’s safe. He’s hugging his sock monkey and the owl Abbi made for him. He’s got a dream catcher on the bed to stop his nightmares and our copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that we’re reading and I silently tell him “good-night, you hoopy frood” and touch his head.
The difference is now I can go to bed and be okay. We’ve been through that already. I just need to remind myself…remind all of us…that regardless of the images and memories that might occasionally haunt us . . .
The best is still coming.