Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sometimes, having a good memory sucks.

Twelve years ago today was a Sunday.

My sorority semi-formal had been the night before. Earlier in the week, I had missed my French Film class; it was something legit, but that detail I don't remember.

My then-beau, a classmate, and I sat down that afternoon to watch the missed movie. It was some medieval period piece from the black-and-white era. After it was over, the hockey game was on, so we watched the end of that. Then two of us went to dinner at the campus mess hall (my beau had forsaken his meal plan for financial reasons).

I think I had a sorority meeting that night; after, then-beau and I were watching TV. I was awaiting the usual 10:30 PM Sunday night phone call from home.

Right on time, the phone rang, but it wasn't my parents. It was my off-campus "family," affiliated through the local parish. "Sorry, Karen, I can't talk. My parents are going to call any minute."

"That's why I'm calling," she said. And life as I knew it ended.

Karen was calling to tell me that my father had suffered a massive heart attack. He was in the ICU in the hospital where I was born, some 140 miles away. The world started spinning.

I had to get home, I had to pack, what do I do first? How do I get there? Should I leave now, or wait for Greyhound in the morning? How can I get in touch with my mother? How long will I be there?

I called my advisor, in hopes that she could contact my other profs. I called some sorority sisters in vain, trying to find someone with a car to drive me.

I called a former teacher who lived about midway. His wife was quite short with me (it was 11:30 by this time), but he recognized me and was instantly sympathetic. Murray had an 8:30 class the next morning; I could hitch a ride with him back that far at the end of the day. I could find a ride from there. Later, I learned that his wife had purchased a bus ticket from Brighton back to Royal Oak.

Then my sister called. I couldn't wait until the next day to get home; they weren't sure he was going to make it through the night. I had to get home that night.

I called Karen back. Her husband Dan got to the house not 15 minutes later; my fellow housemates helped me to be ready. It was a long drive in snowy February weather.

We got to the hospital around 4 AM and Dan made sure we were in the right place. He didn't stay for coffee or much of anything, but turned right around and headed back.

What else do I remember from the worst week of my life? My brother's buddy Russ coming in after working his midnight shift and falling into tears when he heard things were no better. My aunt and cousin coming in with ashes smeared on their foreheads. That I read Dumbo to him that night that I stayed (his favorite Disney song was "When I See an Elephant Fly"). At some point through the week, his siblings--all eight--were there, us kids were there, our friends were there. Even thour the ICU rules said only two visitors at a time per patient, we pretty much took over one of the waiting rooms.

He died at 8:34 AM Saturday, February 27, 1993. He never regained consciousness. He got Extreme Unction at some point, though I couldn't tell you when. I still miss him.


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