No doubt about it, from the day I received the dreaded phone call, I was in a desperate state of denial.
To be honest, I was not truly aware of my son’s exact condition. I was told that the next 48 hours would tell us what we needed to know.
I didn’t go out to Texas right away. I waited those all important 48 hours that I was told were important before I made my decision to go out to him. I know that to you this might not make any sense, but for me as I look back on it, it was one of the most important things I could have ever done.
Because I could not bring myself to face the idea that my son was in desperate condition. Far more than critical. Dire.
His Dad was out there with him. For those first few days he became my eyes and ears.
I think he was in as much denial as I was.
And it came that third morning when I opened my eyes and put my feet on the floor that I knew I’d go. To tell you the truth, that very first day when I answered the phone call, I packed a bag that sat waiting beside the door. I was physically ready, but mentally I was not.
I was waiting to hear that he opened his eyes.
I didn’t think I could handle it if he didn’t. What if he never opened his eyes?
I thought I would give it a few days and would hear that his eyes were open and he was well and I could go there then. I could go and help him recover. Take him home and cook his meals. Nurse and dote over him like I loved to do.
I’d go like I always did to help him through the recovery.
That’s how we did things.
That’s when he needed me most.
It was our dance.
You see, my son was as stubborn as the proverbial mule (yes, that acorn didn’t fall far from this tree). Engraved between the two of us was a razor thin boundary line. A horribly undefined line between independence and need.
Between two very strong wills.
Between a Momma and her grown man of a boy who believed the lie that he didn’t need anyone.
He’d do it all himself, thank you.
You know, this was one of the hardest things for me to handle with my son. We could be so very, very close and share most anything…and we could be the opposite, too. My son would get only so close and then pull away. He was always like that.
I guess I did that to him.
It is really true that children learn what they live.
I won’t go into all the reasons and details and laments about this. It was what it was.
Motherhood is a hard, hard thing. Loving so intensely and wanting so much. Holding tight and letting go.
Watching from the sidelines.
At some point having little or no say. At all. In fact, I think we Mommas trick ourselves into thinking we really ever had much say over our children. Especially when they grow into adults.
Somewhere between his admission to ICU and my going out to him the information of his condition somehow watered down. I was told the story of what happened to him…I was told that he developed pneumonia. I was told that he was put into an induced coma.
Deep inside the entire story did not make sense. No sense at all. How did he have pneumonia? Was he sick for a while? Didn’t anyone know or see?
But somehow the serious truth didn’t reach me. Somehow (and I am thankful now) the reality was kept from me.
And I swear I believed he would be alright. I truly thought so. I believed that the medical staff would find a way to wake him out of that induced coma and he would have some rehab to do…but I expected that he would go home.
Yet something inside of me said otherwise. I am such a practical person in reality that there was an intrinsic awareness deep within me that flashed a warning signal…knew the truth.
The best way I can describe my awareness of the whole thing is to liken it to one of those Russian Nesting Dolls.
Those sweet little wooden carvings…
that’s a doll…
inside a doll…
inside a doll…
At first, and most of the time, I was the larger, outer doll. She was the one that faced it head on and thought of the next and best thing to do. The one who made all the necessary phone calls prior to going…the one who spent hours on the phone connecting and ironing things out with relationships along the string of my son’s life. This doll was the strongest of them all. She was the one who showed her face the most.
Inside I was layer upon layer of realization and recognition. Each doll had her own knowledge and awareness. Each doll had a role to play. I tucked them all away and nested them from view.
And when I walked into that hospital that first night…the smallest and tiniest doll…the one most little girls can’t wait to unnest…well, she was the one who knew the very truth. She was the one who was wise and aware.
Much like that still, small voice of Holy Wisdom.
The days of being in a coma had to come to an end somehow.
Sometime during those grueling 15 days (I know I have that date written down…I cannot look just now at those notes. I will, but I can’t now), the medical team decided it was time to wake my son.
I really thought it would be as easy as that. They would stop the medicine and he would open his eyes.
But it wasn’t like that at all. I mean. At. All.
It had to be done slowly. Carefully. They had to titrate his medication down…little by little. Hour by hour, his medication dosage became less and less.
They needed to see how he would tolerate the trach tube. Mostly, they needed to see how he would tolerate coming down from the medication.
My son would go into serious withdrawl.
As they lowered this medication or that, he would show signs of extremely high blood pressure. Sweating and a dangerous, rapid beating of his heart. There were times when he would vomit vehemently. He would start silently gagging (and oh! that was so hard to see…it was so silent and so tormenting at the same time!) and trying to bite down hard on his trach tube. It was agonizing.
He struggled so much.
He was fighting it all.
I remember standing beside his bed and watching. Watching his face and waiting for signs that he would furrow his brow. Grimace. Maybe shake his head and try to rub his eyes. I stood beside him thinking he would open his eyes.
After he struggled for a time, his medication would be increased again…and he would then rest peacefully in his coma.
It’s odd to me that his coma brought me peace. I knew that he could rest. Maybe his body would heal. It would simply take a little more time.
It took days.
Then finally one day as the nurse told me (again) that his medication was down low enough for him to wake up, and as I stood surrounded by nurses who were waiting to see the same…he did it.
His eyes were open.
And let me tell you…I literally jumped up and down. I know I was laughing and maybe even carrying on in some childish way. I wanted to celebrate.
Silly little doll.
The nurse beside me put his hand on my shoulder. Telling me to quiet. Settle.
It wasn’t a kind quiet or settle, either. It was more like stern. Serious. I looked up at this nurse and saw him examining my son’s face. He was shaking his head! His expression was not expectation. It was not favorable. It was not hopeful.
It was curious. Cautious.
That tiny little doll deep inside my shell knew that look. She knew. These nurses knew something. They were not telling me something.
And I looked then into my son’s face. I unnested those tiny eyes of reality, and I focused in.
Yes. His eyes were open. But something was missing.
For one fleeting moment, that little nesting doll inside knew the truth.
His eyes were glazed and dull. The color was so different. The beautiful blue was gone now. They had somehow turned to gray.
My son had finally opened his eyes.
But he was not there.