20 Months

(google image)

Today is the 20-month anniversary of Lorin’s death. I think about him every day, and light a candle for him every night. The passage of time has not altered my love for him or the depth of my sadness, and anger, that he has left this earth.

Lorin and I loved our many road trips together. He used to say he was “Driving Miss Sweetie” — Miss Sweetie being me.

We planned our music, audio books, snacks and drinks ahead of time. It was always an adventure.

On the drive home from Orlando after a long weekend, there was a delay on I-4 East due to a car accident. A fatal car accident.

In the past, I might have been annoyed at such a delay, but yesterday I felt differently.

I imagined how annoyed motorists must have been after our car accident on September 29, 2016. How they might have been complaining how they would be late for work or to  take their kids to school that morning. I used to be one of those people.

Yesterday I felt profound sadness.  Tears welled in my eyes as I thought of the life or lives that were lost on I-4. As we passed the mangled red SUV, I said a brief prayer for the deceased and his / her family.

Another lost soul on the American highway.

Another family, grief-stricken and traumatized.

I will never forget the beautiful person I lost on September 29, 2016. I am forever altered and still struggle to understand why only my cat Samson and I survived.

Perhaps someday it will all come clear. Until that day, I will do the best I can to make sense of it all and live another day.

Anniversaries

Today is the eleven month anniversary of Lorin’s death. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. We would have been married nine years.

I do not plan to celebrate our anniversary. I will light a candle for Lorin as I do every night and try to think about the happy times we shared.

Lorin died three days after my birthday, so that will be another day I think I’d rather forget.  We were planning to celebrate my birthday in Savannah when we arrived, intact. He bought me some jewelry and was very excited about giving it to me. The jewelry did not survive the car accident. It went missing or was destroyed, don’t know which.

Some pearls of wisdom from the world of trauma and grief:

(1)  Things that used to be bother me a great deal don’t bother me anymore.

(2)  Things that didn’t bother me before may really upset me.

(3) Don’t waste time.

(4) I do not suffer whiners gladly.

I am still trying to figure out why I survived, what my purpose is. It’s lonely being the survivor. Samson survived too. I couldn’t touch him for the first couple weeks after the accident. He seemed afraid of me and was obviously traumatized. When he finally let me pick him up, he seemed uncomfortable or in pain. His little bones must have been bruised.

Here he is with his new best friend Bo, who I adopted in November:

This song is dedicated to my dear Lorin, who was a wonderful dancer. He liked to grab me while I was in the kitchen or in the living room fussing, and start dancing with me. I miss that, among other things.  I wish I could dance with him one more time.

 

Powder

(google image)

Earth, moist from an earlier rainfall
impression of a body on the ground
where he lay

powder pink blanket with blue stripes
like a baby’s blanket
too short for an adult

I wanted to keep it
but it was taken from me
like everything else
that day

ground into dust

I am powder
no longer whole
only particles of myself
remain

I don’t recognize who I am

 

Let Me Breathe

(google image)

Pulling myself out of the earth
grasping at crumbling bits of clay
choking on each bit as it slips
through my fingers and
into my mouth

Let me breathe

two steps forward
three steps back

Let me breathe

Your opinions are not welcome
a listening ear will do

Have you been living in the dirt
with me?
have you seen your husband die
alongside I-95?
then shut up
and let me be

Let me breathe

 

 

Rabbit Hole

down_the_rabbit_hole_by_somefield

(google)

Plunging deeper into the rabbit hole
can’t get out
can’t breathe
Nobody sees what I do

I don’t belong anywhere
I don’t want your pity

Re-living the death
Yet
Trying to live
Why

Trying to dig myself
out of the swampy dirt
hole

falling

clawing

trying to find

love

meaning

warm flesh

wherever I can

Can anyone help me
get out

The Week of Living Dangerously

img_1134

(Samson)

Highlights of my week:

(1) called the coroner’s office, cremation site and others to find out what happened to Lorin’s wedding ring, watch and other jewelry. Turns out after numerous calls, that his jewelry appears to have been cremated along with him. Who does that? I have had to let this go. Won’t bring him back.

(2) got into a fender bender in the Walmart parking lot (I backed up into a woman’s car). I didn’t realize I had even hit her car (kind of dazed and confused lately), but she chased me down the road, honking and taking a photo of my license plate. I pulled over and we entered a small park where she let me know what had transpired. I looked at her fender, and could barely see anything. Am I going blind too? She was going through a difficult time (health issue), and she said, “I know my husband would be mad at me if I didn’t call the police . . . “. So she called the police, and a really cool female police officer (originally from Montana) took a report and the lady and I exchanged information. I told the lady about my situation and we ended up hugging before we parted ways.

It still felt totally ridiculous to me–I had to fill out a report online with Geico over something so trivial.

I have been feeling lately like I wish someone would run me down with their vehicle to put an end to this pain.

(3) Yesterday I took a drive to Tybee Island (one of Lorin’s and my favorite places), and took a long walk on the beach and got a hot dog and iced tea. On the way home, I got pulled over by a Tybee Island police officer.

He said, “Ma’am, did you know your right brake light is out?”

“No, I didn’t,” I said.

I handed him my registration, insurance card and temporary Georgia license. He spent a long time in his car mulling over my paperwork. He gave me a “caution” and said to please get the light fixed promptly.

Lorin and I had the right brake light “fixed” over a dozen times, but it never took. I even asked my mother-in-law’s husband to check the light when I got home. He followed me in his car and said it worked fine at times, then got faint. He also checked the light bulb and said it was fine. It might be the connection, but at this point, I think it’s unfixable and don’t want to purchase a new car at the moment.

(3) Good Stuff: My contractor buddies helped me set up some furniture in the condo and came by today to put up the panel curtains I bought for the porch (sliding glass doors open onto screened-in porch.). They are such good guys and they have done beautiful work in my new home.

(4) Last night I watched “The Invisible Man” (1933) with Claude Rains on TCM. It’s much funnier than I ever thought–the lady who runs the boarding house is a riot.

(5) Samson is my constant companion. He gives me a rather indignant look whenever I leave the house. We are considering adopting a kitten (not till after the holidays, of course).

(6) Last night I also decided that widowhood can make you think in ways you never thought you would. I was fantasizing about scoring some heroin and finding someone to have random sex with. Why not?

(7) Today I tried to close down Lorin’s Facebook account, and while doing so, found numerous articles on google about the car accident. I read one of the articles and saw the shattered car window on the driver’s side, and once again, saw Lorin lying on the earth dead. Realizing he probably flew through that window. Why did I have to see that? I can’t undo having seen it.

Nothing, I mean, nothing, makes sense to me anymore.

Oh, that, and Trump is now our president.

Bellevue CCU

Bellevue-Hospital-NYC-1906-Vintage-Photograph-Balcony-Veranda

It was believed that the fresh air and country air would be beneficial for patients.. Veranda of Bellevue Hospital, 1899.

Bellevue is the oldest continuously operating public hospital in the U.S., established in 1736, and started out as a 6-bed infirmary. 

One and a half blocks from where I was born (220 East 27th Street, 5th floor walkup) is Bellevue Hospital at 462 First Avenue. I was premature and born at home, then brought to New York Hospital with jaundice at 10 hours old. My childhood friends and I always associated Bellevue as a place for “crazies.” Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital opened in 1931, long after the main hospital was established.

Tuesday night was the first time I entered Bellevue, at least as an adult. I was greeted at the information desk by a bespectacled woman with short-cropped blond hair wearing a surgical mask. Her ID badge said “POLISH” in all caps above her name. She asked where I was going.

“Tenth floor, Trauma,” I said.

“Who are you visiting?” she said.

“He came in as a John Doe. I was told to ask for ‘Trauma Gallant.’ “

“Okay.” She searched in the computer.

“He’s in 10 East 20,” I said.

She said something I couldn’t decipher.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s the mask,” she said.

“Yes, it’s hard to hear you behind it.”

This is the hospital that treated the doctor with Ebola; they are ready for anything.

She gave me a visitor’s sticker.

“Walk all the way down the corridor to ‘H,’ then take the elevator to the 10th floor,” she said.

“Thank you.”

The corridor entrance looked like the “new” Times Square subway station: a giant sign with the letters “A,” “B,” “C,” through “H” in different colored circles and the same colored circles lined up on the floor with an arrow leading forward. It was like entering an amusement park, but instead of cotton candy, game booths and rides, there was an Au Bon Pain to the left (hooray, my favorite coffee!) on the left and, on the right, walled by plexiglass, the original horse-drawn ambulance used by the hospital. A plaque next to the ambulance contained a photograph and mention of Dr. Emily Dunning Barringer, the first female ambulance surgeon.

Bellevue_amb_Female_Surgeon_Lo_Res_2

ambulance circa 1869

Beyond the ambulance was a sprawling, dimly lit waiting area corralling an unmanned stroller stuffed with a child’s white down jacket, facing outwards, and two or three people in chairs, asleep or motionless. A giant silver menorah was plugged in at corridor “H,” and a security guard sat outside the elevator banks, checking visitor passes and IDs.

When I arrived at the 10th floor, my husband Lorin greeted me. I asked about the lady in the mask. “Ebola,” he said.

“Oh, yes.” She wasn’t the only employee wearing a mask.

 

Lorin’s dad had a heart attack Tuesday afternoon on the subway platform and was brought to the hospital unresponsive as a John Doe. Until we obtain his ID, his name is “Trauma Gallant.” His dad’s girlfriend called to say he was on his way to see a doctor in the city and was now at Bellevue. It took 3 hours for him to be located in the hospital. Lorin called continuously, and was either hung up on, put on hold or told he was not there. We didn’t know why he was there.

The doctors performed CPR and unblocked a clogged artery using a stent; they broke at least one rib. They were cooling his body by therapeutic hypothermia: cold saline was pumping throughout his body via an artery in the leg. He would be in this state for 24 to 48 hours. Then they would assess the damage to his brain. He has a team of doctors and a lovely nurse who has been kind, compassionate and helpful in every way.

The CCU or Critical Care Unit is very state-of-the-art compared to the Old New York feel on the ground floor. The doctors wheel laptops on movable tables while doing rounds from one room to the next.

Red lights flash overhead and beep periodically: “10 E 14 APNEA,” or “10 E 22 ASYSTOLY.”

His team of physicians includes a gorgeous female doctor with café au lait complexion and curly long black hair. They looked like they came from another planet, the Planet of Health and Privilege. Another was bald with a very long beard and some sort of growth (lipoma?) on his head.

There is nothing we can do for the next 24 to 48 hours, after which the “warming” process will begin, and they will assess damage to the brain. It’s best to stay clinical when you are up in the air.

His dad’s girlfriend B is very hopeful.

At 7 p.m., Lorin and I head to downstairs for a cigarette. In the elevator, we are not sure whether to press “M,” “1,” or “G,” so we press “M.” It’s the wrong floor.

A maintenance man boards the elevator and says, smiling, “It’s ‘G.’ Always look for the star next to the letter, that’s how you know.”

“Oh,” we said in unison. “Thank you.”

On the main floor, signs in the “A” building lead to a Catholic chapel, a Muslim prayer room, a Protestant chapel and a synagogue. After our cigarette, I get a cup of murky coffee at the Au Bon Pain—it turns forest green even after pouring in a generous portion of cream—and Lorin gets a bottle of water. I enjoy the murk for the alertness it brings.

On the way back to “H,” a short man heavily bundled with a backpack and walking stick trudged forward; he could have been hiking Mt. Washington.

* * *

On Wednesday night the warming process began. The doctors said he should be warm within 12 to 16 hours. Then they would assess his condition.

Thursday morning.
The frigid cold seems appropriate today.

When Lorin and I arrive on the 10th floor, one of his doctors says he had seizures last night and a few more this morning.

B strokes his dad’s hand, saying, “You don’t have to worry about anything. We are taking care of everything.”

When Lorin asks her for her assessment, his nurse says he is “purposefully unresponsive,” but it could take up to five days for his brain to “re-boot.”

Thursday afternoon.
The doctors decide it is best to sedate him to stop the seizures. Tomorrow is another day.