I remember thinking it would kill me when the economy tanked in 2008 and my husband was laid off. Not too long thereafter, I thought it would kill me when my husband got re-hired during that recession, but worked a mandatory ten hours-per-day six or seven days a week while my older son was in K4 and my baby was still in day care.
I thought it would kill me when the benefits and pay structure along with the respect once enjoyed by educators were upended in early attempts to dismantle public education here. I felt similarly when my boss and my four close colleagues retired on the same day leaving the cheese to stand temporarily alone.
I thought it would kill me when our son’s neurologist told us he had muscular dystrophy.
I thought it would kill me when I arrived in the emergency department, but was not allowed to see my husband for hours, being told only that he knew my name and phone number which was a “good sign.” It nearly did kill me when I finally was let in the ED, my husband lying in that massive hospital bed, barely coherent using 1-2 word phrases to communicate how much pain he felt. I didn’t know where I could even touch him so broken was he.
I thought it would kill me to rifle through the bags of his bloody, cut-up clothing searching for his car keys upon returning home that horrible night.
I thought it would kill me when Nurse Jen wheeled Tom away to surgery, knowing it could be the last time I ever saw him alive.
I thought it would kill me when my husband’s brain injury erased the man I knew and loved for a few days.
I thought it would kill me to leave my children in the dust, in a distant, distant second place to their father with his myriad needs when I practically moved into the hospital just when they needed me practically more than ever in their lives.
I thought it would kill me when I changed his neck brace in preparation for when they entrusted his post-discharge care to me. Then I had to change the brace daily. I was undone when I helped him shave for the first time.
I thought it would kill me when I randomly discovered that my wages had been docked, and that I owed my employer another week of pay despite the more than 1,300 sick hours I’ve accrued over a nearly three-decade career. You’d think someone would’ve, at the very least, had the decency and professionalism to tell me. Being forced to make any significant life decision while hovering around the surgical ICU is not going to yield the most sound results.
It’s gonna kill me when I have to break my baby’s heart later today delivering what will be bitterly disappointing news.
I can’t bear the thought of returning to work tomorrow, leaving my husband’s side for the first time since May 7, forcing my sons into the caregiver role.
It will kill me. And it won’t.
For myself, I’ve done and accomplished exactly nothing this summer. There is, I hope for my sons, one takeaway: that I tried. I tried to do everything I could for the people I love most in this world. It was messy, it involved a lot of uncertainty and tears (but never a major meltdown), but when life deals you a superbly lousy hand, you’ve no choice but to play it. I hope one day they remember not my tears and our fears, but that I cared for their dad when his life depended on it. I hope against hope neither of them ever again have to endure another trauma such as they’ve faced as adolescents with their dad’s accident and its aftermath. But if they do, I hope they remember seeing how their mom took every hit and kept getting up. I hope they’ve learned to be grateful and say thanks to those who offer and step in to help. I’ve tried.
People say I’m strong. I don’t know about that, but I know I keep doing what I have to do. Is that what strong is?