I’m writing this from North Africa.
I can’t begin to tell you how insane that statement would have been to me a year ago to the day.
This day last year I was lying in a hospital bed in New Brunswick, New Jersey with a shattered tibia and fibula, a result of my drunken stupidity from the night before. As I came to, my friends were there to comfort me and fill me in on what happened, we broke the tension by apprehensively, nervously and morbidly laughing at how stupid I was, and how lucky as well.
But obviously I needed to let my family know. In particular, I was trying to call my mom to let her know that I was in the hospital, that I was hurt but all things considered I was okay (except the Morphine wasn’t remotely close to cutting it with the pain that’s for sure). I feel like that statement is a little too nonchalant for falling through a ceiling and breaking your leg, but truth be told I was pissed at myself but wasn’t THAT down or upset. It happened, I need to deal with it now, on to surgery and rehab, I’ll be back to normal by the summer was my (probably in shock) mindset.
I called her, no response, not that crazy of a thing to happen as she would often leave her phone turned off when she was home so I left a message asking her to call me. Waited about an hour, called again. No response. Left a message, trying not to sound worried or tip my hand about the situation just yet. Waited another 30 minutes, called again. No response. Now I’m not that stressed, but I do want her to find out what happened from me vs. someone else, so I call my Aunt Kathy who lives nearby, fill her in on the situation just a bit and ask her to stop by my mom’s place and tell her to call me.
About 15-20 minutes later, my aunt calls me back and says she saw nothing on at her house, knocked on the door. Nothing. Alright, I’m getting a little worried but not really panicked yet she’s probably just out for a walk. She likes to walk, a lot, to her own detriment. Given her 20+ year struggle with her eating disorder, burning extra calories isn’t something I liked her to be doing but I learned years ago I couldn’t do much to curb that habit, it was something she’d need to do on her own. She’d need to want to do it, all I could do was try and work with her and support her.
Anyway, I’ll wait, she’ll call me back soon – I thought. I lie in bed a bit longer, a little groggy from the pain killers, snapping into focus due to the intermittent searing pain in my leg that would come when it seemed like my, now, several distinct bones would slightly touch each other in what felt like a collision. After some time my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Jeannie entered the room looking visibly shaken. I guess my Aunt Kathy told them. They ask me how I’m doing, how it happened. I lie to them, tell them I was joking around with friends, a little drunk, slipped on a step and fell down. I don’t want them to know how dumb I am, at least not yet. I want my mom to hear it first. They buy it for now, thankfully. My Aunt Jeannie talks to the nurses about my condition, she used to be a nurse for years so the hospital is her natural habitat. After some discussions with the staff and some words over my chosen pain medication and its dosage, they both leave the room to supposedly go talk to the doctors.
They return several minutes later. My Aunt Jeannie is on my right struggling to hold it together. I wonder… over what? She’s always such a sweetheart, such a worrier, but I’m okay. My Uncle Tommy comes around the left hand side of the bed without me realizing it, and I turn my head quickly to look at him…he grabs me by the face, with both his hands, tightly but not aggressively, more supportive and lovingly. The first thought to enter my stupid brain is... oh shit this is going to be an intervention because I’m an idiot who hurts himself so badly after drinking, but I don’t have a problem…do I? I don’t thi …. My thought process stops…. what did he just say? I stare blankly back at him… he’s apologizing?
“Nicholas…. I’m sorry….I’m sorry…..I’m so sorry…I’m so very sorry…but…. your mother has passed away”
I’ll never forget that ringing
My eyes burst open (at a 1/100th of the rate they are as I write this), I’m mentally numb. Not one thought is passing through my mind right now. The words, and the reality they imply, don’t even sound real or make sense. It’s like I don’t have a concept of anything anymore, all my body or mind can do is cry and shake. I have no idea how much time passes.
I hear my Aunt Jeannie sounding like she’s a mile away asking the doctors to switch me from Morphine to Dilaudid right away, again. She’s been asking them to give it to me since they arrived to help with the pain since the Morphine was doing nothing. Earlier they wouldn’t do it, saying they needed the doctor’s approval. But, now, I can see through the haze a mix of pity and sympathy on their faces as they agree. Screw the orders. They give it to me and I slowly fall into a chemically induced, relaxed state….
I’d come back to full consciousness here and there over the next several hours and days before heading up for surgery. I'd return to my room a shell of a person, smiling awkwardly as I received well wishes from the doctors, nurses, friends and family. I quickly learned (if you can call it that) how to use crutches so I can get out of the hospital as soon as possible to organize the services and put her affairs in order. The following days, weeks, months would be some of the toughest of my life as I tried to pick up the pieces of losing the person who made me who I am. The person who taught me right from wrong, how to respect everyone equally, to help others however I could, how to have a positive outlook on life however bleak it may be, how to be a man, to always smile. I had to draw on the lessons she gave me without her here to make sure I was following them correctly, it’s been beyond scary and overwhelming.
Over the past year I put a lot of the things I needed to process out of mind, didn't really talk to anyone about it beyond little quips, platitudes and the like. I had so much to “fix” from a physical standpoint just to function, that I didn’t have much time to focus on anything else, and I didn't want to.
A year later I’m now working on those things, I definitely feel myself doing better. I rarely used to talk about that day, but it feels good to get it out even if it’s just on paper.
I like to think I’m living up to her example but there are days where I fall short, by a lot, but I’d like to think she’d be proud of me for trying all the same and quite shocked in a good way at where I wound up.
Where I started a year ago, and where I am now are, literal and figurative, worlds apart…
I’m in Morocco… I’m feeling like me again.
its been a year Mom, but it feels like its been just a day and an entire lifetime at the same time