The phone rings again in my office as it does every other ordinary day, only interrupting my dismal routine. On the other end of the receiver is a very intense call from my daughter – she is my third child and my only daughter – of three adult children. She was hysterical, “Mom. I’m at twenty-seven weeks and the doctors and nurses have tried everything and cannot stop the labor. The doctor is sending me by ambulance to another hospital thirty miles away, specialists who can handle this kind of emergency.” Immediately a rush of adrenaline courses through me and my thoughts travel back to somewhere thirty years prior.
At 18, and finally free, I had everything. Married to my high school sweetheart; who had rescued me from a mother and her wrath of hell; a healthy toe headed, one-year old son, an old beat up 1955 Ford pickup truck that sometimes started, sometimes not, our one bedroom apartment that wasn’t fit for habitation, and another baby on the way. In those days, having babies was like Christmas; you never knew what you would get until the package appeared into your arms. Physicians didn’t normally get ultra-sounds, or testing of any kind unless there were complications. Not having any insurance didn’t help our situation much either.
My husband, from a very young age, was in construction. Extremely hard physical work, in the heat of the summer from 4:00 am until dark. The crew was small, and he was in charge. Sidewalk, curb and gutter, basements, stairs and the like. Cement trucks each day would drive up and pour yards and yards of concrete for him to be on hands and knees to scrub it to a fine finish. He is a person of integrity and all of his work has to pass his scrutiny of perfection. For years he was in this line of work, and then be laid off in the winter due to the cold months that concrete cannot be poured. For this reason, we never got the chance to have health insurance, so all doctor visits, medications, births, in sickness and in health we stayed together and struggled.
I was so hot that summer, without air conditioning even breathing was difficult. Nothing could cool you down short of playing in the children’s kiddie pool with them. I am now a month over due, and as big as a house, the doctor assured me there wasn’t anything to worry about because I had gone through the first pregnancy without a hitch. On September 7, 1974, my surprise gift would be a quite large eight-pound three ounce, stocky, chunky, fair-skinned, red-headed, blue-eyed bouncing baby boy. He was perfect in every way, ten fingers, and ten toes. He looked like a cherub angel baby would, but then all mothers believe that their own babies are the most beautiful of all.
The sounds of the wailing ambulance siren brings me back to reality as it screams away from the emergency room at the hospital where I had been working. Grabbing my jacket and keys, I hurry to my car. My daughter’s physician assured me that I could be there in the operating room when the baby came. But now all the rules would change. My daughter was being transported to another hospital, where their rules are different and things are so impersonal. This was to be my first grandchild, and needing to be there if only for moral support. The thirty minute drive seemed to take forever. It was not to be, they are quite different in a larger city. I’m taken back in thought and reminiscing again.
My little cherub boys’ first year was mostly uneventful, although he was a moody little hot-head, so we just chalked it up to his red hair. He made milestones in his trials of life. He learned to coo, smile, roll over, crawl like a stink-bug, say a few words and wrestle with his older brother just like any other one year old boy. Those two were inseparable, two peas in a pod, it never crossed my mind as abnormal that he hadn’t taken his first steps yet? Being only nineteen, what did I know?
My days growing up as a child were not like most. Being the oldest of four children, and then as time goes by, eventually a broken torn apart family life at home, thinking that this next part is too much responsibility for a ten-year-old. Our mother expected everything from me. Be a good housekeeper and cook, take care of your three younger siblings, mow the lawn, weed the garden, and tend to the ranch animals while she worked as a single mom. At ten, I felt like I had lived what seemed to be an eternity. I wanted to run away and just be free of her clasp. What would it have been like to just be a kid, whose mother loved all of us the same with no favorites? Things like this just shouldn’t happen. Why doesn’t somebody step in and help me get away from here?
Punishment was on the evil side, emotional trauma, mental control issues that were shouted out on a daily basis. Corporal punishment with a horse cropping whip were favored by mom, and we would sometimes come out of the beatings with blood, bruises, welts. and minds damage. She threatened the neighbors, if they tried to get involved, or call the police, I felt that it was totally hopeless.
Being close to your parents is important and precious to little ones, right? Whatever could they do to deserve to be blamed for the death of your own sister? She was my younger sisters’ identical twin. One fine sunny and perfect Sunday, the twins on separate horses running their horses side by side, up the paved road in front of the house…when an unthinkable accident happened and the horse she was riding slipped and fell – she hit her head on the asphalt, and was kicked on the other side as the horse scrambled to get up. She was taken to a Salt Lake City trauma unit, survived the brain surgery, but she did not ever come out of her coma, and she passed away on the third day. In all this devastation, mom told the surviving twin that it was all her fault that her sister was dead! More mental and emotional blasts passed on to one of her own children. They were just sixteen-years-old at the time.
The twins had been working in the cherry orchards all summer, and had been saving their money for something special. My sister never met my son, but she insisted on buying a baby blanket for her soon to be new nephew.
Knowing that I should have felt loved, and praised for all jobs done, these jobs were never done to her high expectations. So not living up to it, never good enough, always the bad one. There was a deep hatred growing in my heart that I kept to myself. Dreading the sound of her car pulling in the drive; or her angry footsteps approaching my room. I was deathly afraid of her, which was why I never tried to run away; I knew she would have the police find me and bring me back to who knows what kind of physical punishment or how severe it would be. But it never made any difference. Remembering all of this hate as a child; I vowed to never allow this to happen to my own children; if I ever had any. At this young age, I knew I would somehow at least i could break this abuse chain.
Arriving at this massive hospital, it seems like an eternity before I get to the floor where my daughter has been admitted. Hallways seem to go forever, filled with unemotional faceless people who walk quickly by, never making eye contact. Her room is insignificant and unfeeling with only enough space to walk beside the single bed rails. There are IV’s and tubes going into both arms, several solutions draining full open into her veins. One would be an antibiotic, and yet another to stop the labor. Most important would be the lifesaving steroids that help tiny lives to fight to develop premature lungs; that would surely have trouble if this baby comes into the world right now. A radiology technician wheels her away for more tests; she looks so vulnerable; I feel hopeless. Assuring her that I would be here when she comes back, I sit alone in the dark with my thoughts.
Finding myself back in time again, my own parents, now divorcing after thirteen years of unwed bliss. Alcohol, physical and mental abuse and neglect have taken a terrible toll on all of us. Dad would separate alone and go one way, the rest of us with mom; it will never be the same again. If life was hard before, bad now became worse. Endless custody battles and visitation clashes began, more lawyers, more lies. It became a game of tug-of-war between who wanted what, and how much money would the children be worth? We had become four pawns in an evil game of chess…winner takes all – this is too much for a twelve-year-old to understand. As time passes on, my young heart grows hardened, colder and further away from being close to anyone.
My bitter feelings were suddenly jolted and put on hold as my daughters physician gently pushes open the hospital room door. His wrinkled brow and grave look without a word, told me the news would not be good. “Their condition is very unstable right now, for daughter and baby. If she continues at this pace with the labor, and the baby were to be born right now there will be severe complications and respiratory problems.” He assures me that babies have survived at this stage, but it is rare to not acquire asthma, or a lifetime of breathing difficulties or even a need to be on oxygen. All this, if there are no other major obstacles.
Several hours have passed; her life threatening labor has finally stopped for now. I have completed several more rows on the baby blanket that I have been crocheting; it was to be for my first grand-baby that is coming too early. There should have been more time. Doctors’ orders have her confined to complete hospital bed rest until delivery. Breathing only a temporary sigh of relief, I whisper in her ear that I will see her tomorrow. It has been a very long and stress filled day.
Teenage years have caught me again in the middle between a stepfather and my mothers’ dictatorship, as I am becoming even more rebellious and harder to manage. School is not an option, and my grades are falling. How can I become my own person and get out of here? Working full time after school is my only reprieve for now, and if I could just save enough to buy a car and move away, surely things will be better, at least no worse.
I met someone today, he is handsome, tanned and muscular with wavy golden brown hair, gorgeous piercing blue eyes, and very shy. He works two jobs, goes to my high school, he has a car and I think maybe he might like me? What more could I ask for? What if he found out about my family, he surely wouldn’t want to come around.
A year has gone by; he is eighteen, myself now seventeen; we have decided that being together is the most important part of our lives and we are married. His family seems to adore me, and has so much love, even extra to give to me. I am treated as if I am their own child. My mom despises me, because she has just watched the unpaid help walk out the front door. We move far away and start out a life of our own, I am sorry that it is like this, but this gentle man has rescued me from a prison without any bars. The telephone ringing breaks again into my silent thoughts.
“They can’t stop the labor this time, hurry and get here,” my daughter is crying. “They are taking me to the operating room now for an emergency cesarean. The baby’s heart beat is in trouble and I am afraid.” Three more weeks had gone by, and the grand-baby is coming. Thinking about the possibilities of the dismal outcome and trying to be my somewhat pretending positive self, I hide my real feelings of fear that this is happening again. Risking the thought of losing another little life, how could anyone of us cope with loss again?
Thinking back again, on a freezing day in late October, my chubby red-headed little fireball is not his usual self. Listless and feverish, he stares at me through his big blue eyes trying to tell me something is terribly wrong. I take his temperature it is 104, he is burning up! We have no health insurance. When the main provider of our little family works in construction, there is no work or benefits in the cold months of the year. I bundle this gift tightly in a blanket; I have been given this gift to take care of, and I am trying so hard to do what is right, no matter the cost. The doctors examination determines that he has a cold, new teeth coming in and the advice is to take him home, give an aspirin, benedryl, and he should be good as new in a few days. We take the doctors word as gold, we don’t question, we just do as we were instructed.
That night was very fitful for all of us, not much sleep for any of us. The morning would bring us to face something even worse that the day before. I had never seen a fever that dangerously high before. I put him in a cool bath to try and reduce his fever, to save his brain from burning up. It was still 105 and rising. He seemed relieved for only a short time, but his temperature was out of control and he was burning up again. I dressed him, and sat him on the couch for a short time, just to look at him. A glazed over stare is piercing right through my heart, as if I wasn’t even there. I feel a sickening emptiness and hopelessness. I wrapped him in a blanket again, laid him on the car seat, told him to say bye bye to daddy. He smiled at both of us for only a moment; sadly it would be his last recognizable expression.
Rushing to the hospital emergency room again, this time my not so blue-eyed baby boy was taken away and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. This was to be Halloween night, instead of dressing him and his brother up to go trick or treating, IV’s and sedatives were flowing into his tiny body, chubby hands and feet were bound and tied to the hospital bed. Machines were monitoring his tiny heartbeat and respiration’s as his body convulsed and fought his restraints throughout the night. As we arrived at the hospital on that Sunday morning, we overheard the nursing staff talking about him, and how they couldn’t believe he had made it through the night. We were never told how serious his condition was, or that he was dying, or even what his diagnosis or prognosis was.
At noon, a code blue was called to his room, he had stopped breathing, several doctors and nurses ran to his room shouting orders to each other. Resuscitation efforts were useless at this point, it was too late. I just stood there full of grief, helplessly, hopelessly watching the heart monitor losing count, until all that was left was one single flat line. Laying calm and finally at peace, as if he were asleep, his fighting spirit was gone, and with it all the physical pain. I cradled him after nurses removed all the tubes, and wrapped him in a flannel blanket. I spent some time holding and rocking him, he looked as if he was just sleeping. A perfect little body, a joy to have been acquainted and given the chance to raise him for a short 13 months. As I rocked him, his last breath of air escapes his tiny body with a sigh, telling me that his soul is gone now. I say to myself that I will never get this close to anyone again. It is too hard to let go.
As I leave my dark thoughts behind again, I find myself looking through the operating room window. It is hard to see anything but harsh cold steel, shiny sterile instruments, doctors and nurses in blue masks and gowns working feverishly on their task at hand. Time again stands still until a weak, faint cry comes from within the room. Only seconds pass and a nurse quickly whisks the baby girl past me through the double doors to the neonatal intensive care unit. The doctor stops long enough to tell me, “It’s a girl, she only weighs two pounds ten ounces, and that he must hurry to attend to her because she is in critical condition.”
My mind now races a million miles an hour, a girl – two pounds, what possibly weighs two pounds – half a bag of sugar, maybe a large orange? How can anyone survive at only two pounds? Convincing myself again to be strong for my daughter; I can’t let her see me afraid that it’s happening all over again, I must be mentally prepared to face all the possibilities of what could happen next.
Making my way to where the nurse has taken this tiny gift, I am simply amazed that this little girl is breathing all by herself without assistance. She is only minutes old, a miniature doll with the most perfect features, tiny long fingers – tiny toes lying in an incubator. Her hair is jet black, eyes are a deep ocean blue with flawless olive skin, but no I can’t get attached to her.
Just then her frail little fingers reach out and intuitively moved towards my hand. I instinctively touched her. With what seemed to be all her strength she wrapped all her fingers around one of mine, and wouldn’t let go. Believing it was this very moment my heart melted into a bond with someone that I had never met before this moment. She was going to make it now, I just knew it, this premature child had shown me what strength can come in such a tiny small package.
Throughout the next few months, she had endured complete blood transfusions, and several close calls with the Angel of Death. Refusing to give up, her strength and fight to be here on earth was stronger that taking the easy way out. God has a plan for this little lady, and she was able to come home after forty-five days in the NICU, and remained on an apnea monitor for six more months to help alert us when she would stop breathing, and it happened very frequent! Now at four years old, she was a shining light of my new life. She has given me a second chance, and taught me how to love the little children again. Someday I will share this story with her and let her know how special she is in our lives.
Finally realizing after more than thirty years, I wasted valuable time keeping my distance from my own children. A fear of possibly losing them trapped me, I feared, into not giving them all the unconditional love that they desperately needed. Perhaps that lack of closeness shown me as a child only made things worse, and not knowing, how or what it should feel like. The drive to break the genetic chain of cold hands and a cold heart has been a difficult one. But when the second chance at life came, when a new grandmother was born.
I am still broken, and continue to work on my flawed and messed up self.
There had been twelve years gone by, and I tragically almost lost my daughter. She has grown up to be a beautiful young lady, with a beautiful daughter, married for fourteen years. She has such a giving heart; she was getting her husband’s new racing motorcycle safety inspected and licensed as a surprise for him when he got home from work. As she was leaving the business, she accidentally pulled a full throttle while trying to cross the highway. She was dressed in her full leather gear, and her helmet, but she went through a fence and hit an oak tree head-on, at 65 miles per hour. Luckily, a UPS driver who was right on top of the accident knew her, and called 911.
The ambulance just scooped her up and took her to the local hospital. She had too much trauma to her body, and our rural hospital didn’t have trauma surgeons on staff, so she was immediately sent by Life Flight helicopter to a larger hospital. She had massive internal injuries, lost her spleen, broken ribs, punctured lung, mesenteric tear, broken nose and fractured left wrist. There was also a complete muscle tear above the knee that had to be reattached. There were four trauma doctors working on her. We didn’t hear how she was until after midnight. She was placed in a drug induced coma because of possible brain swelling. During this trial on the family, on the fourth day, her husband passed away at home from a heart attack, he was 33. I had to tell her on the day she was awakened from her coma that her sweet husband had passed away in his sleep.
This strong willed lady planned her husband’s funeral from her ICU bed, attended the services, and gave his eulogy. She had to learn to walk again, but she had her devoted father who spent every day with her, and many friends and family that came to assist her in making her home more convenient for her wheelchair. She had months of physical therapy, but mostly due to her own tenacity and willpower to live, she recovered on her own. Now, almost six years later, she only has a slight favoring of her left leg, and wrist.
Her only child, who was just twelve at the time of the loss of her father, whom she loved dearly, seemed to be dealing with this grief better than any of us. But, we think that somehow she knew that her loving father prayed, possibly bartered and asked to spare his wife, leaving her here on earth and take himself in trade. Because he believed that mom would do the best job in raising this precious child. Her rationalization was amazing for such a young one; she has always been so special to all of us, so loving and giving and genuine.
She is now 17, a beautiful angel who sings in the ladies high school choir. She has become an amazing gift for our family. She brings a special kind of unconditional love for us all. She teaches us things that we could not ever know of ourselves. To think, she was almost not to be…but God had other things for her to do. She teaches her mom every day, what love is, she is her mother’s best friend. They can talk about anything and everything, they do not keep secrets. She is teaching her mother that love comes in many different ways – tonight they are lying on a blanket and watching the shooting stars that only appear every so many years, they are always making memories together.
I am brought back to my own thoughts again, and my husband of 41 years has been diagnosed with a deadly terminal disease. He has had treatment to kill the cells, but it did not work. I have prayed every night to spare him, because I am not ready to let him go back, but would i ever be ready to let him go? I am very angry, what have I done to deserve this awfulness? He went through hell with the treatment that was prescribed, and for what…to waste two of his precious months away from me in the hospital? He is so fatigued, and feeling sick most of the time. I cannot do anything to help him, I continue to pray for his health – but it seems to no avail. What will I do? How will I survive without him? I cannot even fathom it. Have I not had enough heartache in my life? We still had plans unfulfilled, we were to retire together and enjoy each other as our children are now grown and on their own. Making memories with our children and grandchildren, how did our plans change so drastically, so quickly? He finally succumbs to this disease, and I am now a widow…feeling the same pain my daughter did five years prior, when her own husband passed away. They are buried side by side, just down the street in the same cemetery.
It has been two and a half years now, I can usually talk about him without crying…usually. It is very hard to go on alone, too much time to think. He did get the book finished that he and my youngest son were co-writing about the hell of drugs. It took seven years to complete.
“A Walk In His Shoes”, was finally published and is getting awesome reviews. He was a published writer and professional photographer, and he dearly loved his work. There are reminders of him everywhere I turn.
I am sure that this story will not end here, as my daughter and granddaughter have moved here with me so they can both go to college. Myself, I went back to college at 48, graduated at 50 and received an RN degree. My daughter is going back to finish her Masters in Criminal Justice, and her daughter will begin earning her degree in the fall.
My oldest son works in Alaska, and comes back every few weeks to his home just around the corner where he lives with his beautiful wife, and four children. He is a certified welder, has his own landscape curbing business, and is very proud of his family and their accomplishments.
My youngest son, works up North as a Professional Pressman, is married to a wonderful beautiful lady from Finland (who by the way speaks four languages) she holds a Mechanical Engineering degree, and loves reptiles. He is a writer as well, working on a new book that will be fiction, is very artistic, raises reptiles and blogs about the dangers of drug addiction.
This story was supposed to become a book; I started writing this story as an autobiography for an English project in college. But, I just can’t seem to get it finished so Ill use it as a blog instead!
I love my children and grandchildren to the moon and back…and I hope I haven’t damaged them to the point of no return?
Having a Bi-Polar Brain has been my downfall throughout my later years, and it took a very long time to be diagnosed. I also believe that it is hereditary, and I am telling my kids ahead of time, that I am sorry that this defective gene is somewhere floating around in their DNA, but to just acknowledge it. If it surfaces get treatment, there is a stigma attached to this disorder. Believe me, you don’t want to ignore the signs.