Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making sense of a situation

A few weeks ago, during a conference with Grant’s teacher, I learned that Grant had failed a hearing screening at school. Not waiting for the official notification from those that performed the hearing screening, I took him to the pediatrician and discovered he had an ear infection, which was a likely cause for the hearing loss. After two weeks of antibiotics and an ear re-check, the pediatrician decided the infection looked relatively cleared up, but recommended a hearing screening again.

On Tuesday I received a call from pre-registration to get Grant registered for his appointment the next day. This was the first I heard of the appointment, so I had no time to think about the appointment and its location, which was probably for the best. On Wednesday, we headed out to Grant’s audiology screening.

At OSF-St. Francis Medical Center.

As we walked the corridors of the hospital getting to the appropriate elevator, it dawned on me this was the first time I had entered OSF-St. Francis since March 17, 2009. I scanned my memory quickly, thinking SURELY there was a time or reason when I had been there in the last 11 months. Nope. First time since March 17, 2009.

And since THAT wasn’t enough, the audiology group performing the test was on the 6th floor of the Illinois Neurological Institute just one floor away from where Brian had his last surgery and hospital stay in which he left the hospital ALIVE.

And since THAT wasn’t enough, Grant had to use the bathroom just outside the secured entrance to the Children’s Hospital wing where Gavin spent 3 days and nights just one day after Brian’s last hospital stay in which he left ALIVE.

And since THAT wasn’t enough, as we sat in the waiting room listening for Grant’s name to be called, I glanced out the window and peered directly into the building across the street – the one where Brian died. Not just the building, but exactly the ROOM in which Brian breathed his last breath. Birds-eye view.

And because I was completely caught up in the flooding of memories, I was giving a commentary of the events that unfolded on all three of those events to my audience.

Which was my 6-year-old son.

Yeah, really smart.

I even pointed out the room to Grant. He cleverly acknowledged that I had just minutes ago as we were walking the hallways audibly said, “I haven’t been here since Daddy died. He died in his hospital” and that building was across the street, so not part of this hospital.

I explained there is an underground tunnel system leading over to that building and it took us a long time to get there. He said he wanted to go see the tunnel system and walk through it. I said, no he didn’t and it took a long time and was confusing. He asked if Daddy walked over there.

Being a complete and total idiot, I kind of huffed and said, “No, sweetie, daddy was totally unconscious. he couldn’t walk at all.”

Then I looked down into his eyes.

And it was in THAT EXACT MOMENT that I realized what the hell I was doing and who my audience was. Holy Crap! I saw the look on his face as he tried to visualize the events of that day even though he was in St. Louis when it was all happening. I didn’t want him to visualize that in his tender little 6-year-old fatherless life.

So, I tried to smooth it over. “Daddy got to ride on one of those cool beds with wheels. We all had to walk but he got a ride. And sometimes it went pretty fast because there were kind of hills in the halls.”

“Mom, You shoulda hopped on and rode with Dad.”

“Yeah, I wish I would have thought of that. That would have been fun.”

We were called soon after that. He is still showing some signs of hearing loss in both ears. Minor and probably reversible. He also has pressure on his eardrums signaling he is either still recuperating from his ear infection or on the verge of another, which could be the cause. Regardless, it entails an additional trip to the pediatrician for another ear check and an additional hearing screening.

Anyway, on our way out of the hospital, Grant got to choose a snack at the gift shop or Spotted Cow ice cream. He chose the gift shop. He had been lobbying for gum earlier, so I assumed he would want gum and I was even willing to buy Hubba Bubba. Instead, he chose a Snickers. Grant rarely chooses anything chocolate so I was surprised at his choice and as I was paying he looked at me and said, “Mom, that was Dad’s favorite candy bar, wasn’t it?”

“It sure was, Buddy. He said it was the perfect candy bar because it had the caramel and the chocolate and the nougat AND the peanuts. You made a good choice.”

And it was in THAT EXACT MOMENT that I made some sense of the situation. Because I am ALWAYS trying to make sense of situations like these.

You see, as that flood-gate of memories opened and my mind raced with so many events I had lived and survived during the fall and winter of last year, as I glanced out that window peering into the room where I lay on Brian’s chest unknowing he was an hour from death, as I walked those halls audibly recapping the events of those months, I didn’t shed one tear. Not a single tear. I felt weird being at the hospital for a reason other than Brian’s cancer. I didn’t like sitting in the waiting room as I remembered so many times silently holding Brian’s hand knowing we were getting test results and any idle chatter just meant we were both nervous. Silence was best at those moments.  Yet even in the midst all that, I don’t even know that I felt particularly sad. Just strange.

I felt like I should be sad. I felt like I should cry, but there was no sadness for me.

But, since I had foolishly etched all these images into my baby boy’s mind now, I could see the impact on him and my heart swelled with sadness for him. I could see that as the anniversary of Brian’s death approaches and as everyone’s memories are flooded with “this time last year” thoughts, I need to be sensitive and aware of the effect on those that love(d) Brian so dearly. I need to be watchful of my children.

Because as I move on with my life as we are all forced to in some way or another, Brian’s death isn’t such a huge loss to me anymore. Oh my, that sounds so harsh! It IS because I have had to completely readjust my life for his absence, but at the same time it isn’t because the next phase for ME is kind of exciting. (and selfish)

No, I didn’t feel sadness and tears for myself, but as I looked at my little boy eating his Daddy’s favorite candy bar just across the street from the room where his Daddy took his last breath 11 months prior, I remembered the magnitude of HIS loss.

I need to be sensitive that there are two little boys who no longer have a Dad. There are two parents that lost their son. There are two grown men that lost their brother.

That is irreplaceable.



  1. You're a wonderful mom and role model.

  2. Wow, what a day. WOW. I was in the stroke wing recently of the hosp where my mom died (20 yrs ago!) and the memories came flooding back.

    You are a great mom to your boys. You are doing a great job of keeping Brian's memory alive for them.

  3. That was a whopper of a day.

    You are sensitive to all of those loved ones, as I know they are to you.

  4. NOT harsh. Definitely not harsh.

    I love you!

  5. You seem to be finding the balance between looking back and looking forward.

  6. It sounds to me like you handled things beautifully. As adults...and especially as women, we gauge everything in our lives based on big events. You know, the enormous dates that get etched into our memories forever...and everything else that happens in life is forever wrapped around those dates. You know, "John learned to ride his bike 2 months after we moved into this house" or "Suzy was born just a month after Grandma died." And we do the same thing with locations. I suspect you won't ever drive past that hospital without having some sort of mental image of Brian's last hours. Even if you don't verbalize it or even acknowledge it to anyone else in the car with you. It's there. It always will be. And it will always be in the boys' minds too. I think the fact that Grant didn't burst into tears or slump in the chair...but heard the info, processed it & then chose a snack based on something dad would like...he handled it great, too!

  7. You all went through so much last year. The impact of that is huge. Everyone grieves and deals with it in their own way.

    Don't be too hard on yourself. You are a wonderful mom and you are incredibly sensitive to your sons' needs - always making sure they know how much they are loved and providing a wonderful example to them of what a loving parent is.

    Beautiful pictures of Brian and the boys, especially the one with the mountains in the background. Years from now, the boys will look back at all the wonderful pictures and you can tell them stories of all the good times with their dad. They'll remember the fun things (through your stories) and not the tough times.