It really, truly felt like any other Friday.
Like any other Friday, I rushed across the house like a madwoman, and Ed had to help me get myself together while I tended to Kyli, my daughter. Like any other Friday, Mini-me was running behind schedule. I’ve never been able to figure out why it takes a child who is missing almost half of the teeth in her mouth soooo long to brush them, but I’d just resigned myself to playing time-keeper instead of fussing at her for wanting to brush every single individual tooth like she was trying to cherish it while she had it.
“Mini-me, it’s 7:25… Mini, it’s 7:30… it’s 7:35. We’re not going to be able to call Nana this morning like you promised her last night!”
“Okay Mom, I’m coming!”
School gives Mini-me anxiety. She’s a brilliant child – she finds patterns in things easily, and it’s helped her catch on to things quicker than many children. That being said… if she didn’t catch on as quick as she was used to, she became an Olympic sprinter. Down the hall, around the corner, [apparently] past the security desks and out the front door. Though she’s never made it further than ‘around the corner’, it was still cause for intervention.
We called it “Nana therapy.” Something about Nana made Mini calm. My mother and my daughter – and, I suppose, me – all shared the same kind of anxieties, but while I “solved” mine with food and while Mini-me solved hers by choosing “flight” over “fight,” Nana took everything head on. Even when it might’ve resulted in clearing a bar top with a human being or taking an axe to someone’s car windows…
…but that’s neither here nor there. Either away, when you look up the word “spitfire” in the dictionary, my mother’s life story appears as the first definition. She’s just a champ like that – a “gray sweatsuit, standing at the top of the stairs, fists in the air” type of champ.
Something about her Nana made Mini-me sit, listen, and relax. Nana helps her find the ability to stay and fight, helps her understand how to be fearless, how to ask for help. If Mini-me was having a rough day in class, the teacher would call me, and I’d immediately call Nana on three-way. Before we all knew it, she’d be a different child. Her day would become infinitely greater.
This morning, both Eddy and I walked her to school… just like every Friday. (Well, almost. I’d been bugging Ed to come with me to the parenting forums… and for some strange reason, today he’d decided he’d just get up and come with me.)
And, just like every other Friday, I stayed at the school to talk to other parents and sit for our weekly parenting forum that we regularly host… but that’s where the similarities ended.
For some reason, my baby sister was ringing my phone off the hook. And, because I remember the last time she bugged me to death… I let that joint go straight to voice mail. Left with no recourse, she sent me a text that sent me flying out of the room:
“Erika, why won’t you answer your f–king phone mom is in the hospital!”
I called. Got the news. Mom had a seizure in the middle of a business meeting, and was sent directly to the hospital.
I stood outside of the conference room where we were having our forum, and waited patiently to catch Ed’s attention. When he arrived, I burst into tears, sobbing and trying to explain what happened to her. We left the school, and on the walk home Ed booked the rental car. Clearly, we needed to go.
We went into Jersey, got the rental car, and came right back to the house. I grabbed my book bag, my laptop, and headed for the door. Ed stopped me.
“Are you going to pack any clothes?”
I looked around the room, and saw the laundry hamper. I grabbed it, and rushed for the door. Ed grabbed the dogs, and we went straight back to the school to grab the little one. We were out.
Though the Holland Tunnel was trying damn hard to stop me, nothing was keeping me from getting to Indiana. Rain storm? No. Speed limits? Not even. Cops? What are those?
The vast majority of the night was spent making phone calls and managing the flow of information. With Ed and Baby Sis – who is not quite a baby, but is 21 and my god, are they annoying – texting numbers to each other and other people to let everyone know who’s manning what, we called all the people we could and hoped they were good at playing telephone. They never are, but when you’re driving almost 100 miles an hour down a long stretch of highway… you focus on what’s most important.
When we arrived, Saturday morning, I was overwhelmed. Overnight, they’d discovered that The Champ’s seizure was caused by a ruptured aneurysm, and sent her straight into surgery. So much of the night was spent with no music, and just me whispering to myself about how I couldn’t believe how this was happening to us. To my Mommy. The lump in my throat was so large, I was afraid to cry. I feared being unable to breathe.
The hospital staff are, without a doubt, patron saints of dopeness. After spending the night whispering and sniffling, all I could do was whisper… and they were so kind. I rushed right in to see my Mom, and there she was. Still, resting, but everyone surrounding her – doctors, nurses, everyone – was optimistic.
“She’s strong.. we asked her to squeeze our fingers and, well.. we weren’t expecting the level of strength she had.”
I stood over her, daughter in my arms, and swallowed for the first time in hours. She looked like… Mommy. Nice big bandage on her head, but Mommy, nonetheless.
Mini-me was crushed. I was so focused on what seeing Mini would do for Nana, I’d forgotten to think about what seeing Nana would do for Mini-me. She calmly asked to step outside the room with Daddy, which I did. I watched her from the hospital room window. Ed picked her up, and she curled up like a newborn infant in his arms… and tears slowly made their way down her face.
With her out of my arms, I finally felt like I could cry. Mom was asleep, and people repeatedly reminded me of how well she was doing and how optimism was a safe bet… but that’s The Champ laying there. Nothing or nobody has taken my Mom out before… and seeing her this close was difficult to do. This was, easily, her greatest challenge.
I’m not gonna lie. I hadn’t combed my hair, dug the “sleep” out of my eye or even wiped off my leftover-and-half-gone-already makeup for that matter. I was kind of glad she was asleep while I looked so disheveled, because… Mom’s a bit of a jerk. She’d been warming up to my natural hair – curly or straight, Mom just likes “long hair” – but it needed to be “properly maintained.” She didn’t mind me rocking “an oversized-Angela Davis,” but you couldn’t be flat on one side, or flat in the back. Properly round, or not at all. It’d be totally like her to wake up and say, “Dang, you walk in here like that?” That’s just… my Mom.
A nurse walked in and started to prep her for removing her breathing and feeding tubes, because they believed she was ready to do all of those things on her own. I stood there and watched… and smiled – when they asked her to cough, she coughed; when they asked her to push, she pushed; when they asked her to pull, she pulled. They asked her the year, she said “thirteen;” they asked her who was president, she said “Obama;” they asked her what kind of facility she was in, she said “hospital;” they asked her to open her eye so they could check her pupil, she opened her eye wide, as if to say “IS THIS WIDE ENOUGH? CAN YOU LEAVE ME ALONE??”
The nurse laughed and said, “Yeah, she’s alright.”
Mom caught a glimpse of ‘fro in the corner of the room, and both eyes rolled over towards me. Her eyes met mine, then rolled up to my hair. Then rolled back down to me. Then rolled back up to my hair.
“I don’t wanna hear a word about my hair, Mom.”
She let out a soft giggle.
“How did you get here so fast?”
“100 miles an hour.”
“You can’t do that.”
“They can’t catch me…. You know, Mini’s here.”
“All of us. We’re all here.”
“Sala and Sushi too?”
“Yep. We’re here with Bella.”
(After seeing my blog post about my puppies, she went out and got her own. A husky, at that.)
“Are they all in my room?”
“Nope. They’re in their own room.”
And then, she reached out for me. Like, genuinely reached for me. I took her hand, and I sat down. Her pain meds began to kick in and she fell right asleep, with her hand in mine.
I’m pretty sure I held that hand the rest of the day.
I had to have a very long talk with Mini-me. I essentially traumatized her – she was just on facetime with Nana the other night… why is Nana in the hospital today?
“How do you feel right now,” I asked her.
“Why are you sad, Mini?”
“Because your mother’s dead.”
“No, honey, she’s very much alive… she’s just on medicine to help her feel better.”
“Why is she in here? What happened to her? What are all those things connected to her?”
I tried my best to explain to her that Nana hurt her head, her friends took her to the hospital, her doctors are taking great care of her, and the tubes were just monitoring her to make sure she stays healthy. Mini-me hugged me and Ed together, and we all held each other. We’d be spending the coming days in my Mom’s house… and we needed to prepare ourselves for the reality of her not being there. For now.
Because, like I said… The Champ is undefeated.