Sunday, March 20, 2011


You think that you're able to handle anything -- or at least most of it -- and then the phone rings at 7 a.m. and you have to wake your husband up and tell him to go to the hospital because his mother, who just had surgery a few weeks ago, is suddenly hemorrhaging and they want the family there at once. And you have to get in touch with his siblings. And you have to call your mother to come and pick up your son.

And the phone rings again. You have to go to your mother-in-law's house to make sure that the door, which her brother kicked in when she didn't answer the door, at least looks like it's closed.

No, wait. Your husband is coming home to get you and the two of you will drive to Shadyside Hospital where she is being lifeflighted.

You can handle that, so far. This is old hat, really. You did this when Dad was sick. Besides, your mom has your son and he knows nothing except that he's going to spend the day with his cousin before going to a friend's birthday party that night.

So you drive to Shadyside while your husband sits beside you and tries not to cry, and you find the right waiting room, and you say all the right things to the family that's already gathered there. Her children, her brother and sister-in-law, her two sisters, her niece, and two friends of her daughters. You marvel at how close everyone is and, yes, even envy a little, too. How lucky she is to have them.

When the doctor tells the family that she's unable to clot and that he can't stop the bleeding yet, you stay calm because no one needs you falling apart.

And you sit. For nearly twelve hours in the dimly lit waiting room, and you go over how glad you are that they got to her in time, how glad you are that her hemoglobin is coming up -- from 4 to 7.5. You count blessings, like the fact that she was able to call for help and the fact that your son wasn't with her when it all started. You tell yourself a lot of truths.

You tell yourself a lot of lies, too. Big ones. Whoppers about how she's going to be okay. You think about her birthday in two months and wonder if you can talk her kids into buying her a new living room carpet. Somehow you almost convince yourself that she'll pull through, even though it's 7 p.m. and the doctor himself is on the verge of crying because he can't do anything more than slow the bleeding.

Even at 11:30 p.m. when you stand there and hear the doctor tell her children that nothing more can be done, you manage to keep it together. And so with the family's permission, he stops giving her fluids and, within minutes, she's gone.

You cry a little, holding your husband who is sobbing as is any son's right, but you can't really let go yet.

At home, some more tears. Just a few. Both of you are too worn out to do much more than that. Tomorrow you'll tell your son when your mother brings him home.

But the next morning you find a picture of her holding your son, a candid one someone took at his fourth birthday party, and they're looking at each other and you know that look.

And then you cry.

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