It’s time now to tell you.
It’s quite something to me that this post is the hardest to write. I’ve thought and thought and belabored as to how to put it all into words.
And I sit here…chair pulled up real close to this desk. The computer screen glaring with the dare. Hurts my eyes. Blinds me some.
I swear my arms feel as heavy as concrete blocks. It takes way too much energy to hold them up before me. My shoulders want to pull up tight toward my ears. My elbows and wrists feel dry and rusty. Creaky and resistant. Hinges that beg for relief from some kind of healing oil.
And these fingers. As they type each one feels like a cumbersome boulder dragging over the keyboard. Protesting every key. Resisting the story. Each tap of a letter sounds exaggerated…Loud, LOUD, LOUD.
My ears are ringing.
And after almost every sentence I have to stop a bit. Close my eyes and shake my head as the tears stream down my face and pool all salty on my lips. With the back of my rock heavy hand I have to wipe the snot away.
I gather myself together a bit and continue on. I want to write this out. I need to.
The hardest part is that the story is only from bits and pieces I’ve gathered along the way. So much of it is missing. I didn’t ask too many questions about it from those who thought they knew…because second hand is not good enough for me. I actually didn’t need to ask because so many came to me telling me what they thought. People are like that. They need to tell newsy things. They can’t wait to try to fill in the blanks. Whether they know the truth or not.
I thought I’d wait to hear it from my son himself.
Yet that never happened. He never told me.
I believe in previous posts I let you know that my son hurt his back during a tour in Iraq. Broke it, actually. After time passed with trying to heal it himself, he succumbed to surgery. And then surgery to help with the pain of that surgery. Then surgery to fix the mistake of that surgery. And so on. The ridiculous passing around and delays and red tape associated with these things are yet another topic for another blog. Many blogs, actually.
My son was also making plans to retire from the Army. He had served twenty years. Twenty! So many years given to serving. He was wading through the paperwork and the meetings and the waiting to put it all together. It was just around the corner.
Only a few months away.
It seems that one evening he was compelled to paint his kitchen ceiling. Now…I know that very few men even CARE about what their kitchen ceilings look like. But my son was out to please another and from what I gather, decided to paint the ceiling himself.
And here’s the hardest part. He KNEW he was not physically able. He knew.
But let me tell you that my son was also medicated. Way too medicated. With all of the surgeries and all of the pain and in trying to do life with some kind of normalcy he became pretty dependent on those medications.
I will most likely write about all of that another time, too. When I can stop being so angry and bitter toward the writing of prescriptions and the handing them out like candy on a Halloween night. And we all know how hard it is to put that candy away in a bowl, put it up on a shelf, and NOT go back to it for more. After our taste buds get a sense of that sweetness, the brain never forgets it and will, if one’s not careful, go after more. That few seconds of great pleasure. It’s the ultimate trick-or-treat.
As far as I know, he had paint roller in hand and went to work painting the ceiling. That alone could cause damage. The reaching and stretching above his head to do it right. He was never one to do anything half way.
So he put together a makeshift ladder. I do not know for sure what he used…but I know they were stacked upon each other. Unbalanced. Unstable.
That put together with the height and weight of my son and the momentum of trying his best to get the job done…
Not only did he fall but he hit his head. HARD. On the granite counter top and then with a loud thud, broke the cabinet door. Broke it. His big, rock hard, stubborn head put a hole right in the wood of it.
Someone later sent a picture of that cabinet to me. There was hair still in the grain of that wood. My son’s precious hair.
As he landed on the floor, he bit the tip of his tongue. Bit a chunk right off of it.
Most likely he was stunned at first but he forced himself up from the floor. Probably cussing like a sailor.
There were a few there with him. Mostly children (and oh! I hate to think of that! How frightened they must have been!). I was told that the only adult with him suggested he lie down.
Being his Momma…I don’t think I would have done that. I seriously don’t. I would have made a bee line toward the emergency room in the nearest hospital.
But I do know my son. And I know that over these past few years he has waited way too many hours for his liking in way too many care facility rooms. Sometimes overlooked. Sometimes forgotten. And I mean waiting hours…and hours.
Most all the time told that there was little to be done. Take this medication or even worse for him, put in a hospital room only to be told that he needed yet another surgery or round of appointments to fix this or to fix that. No one ever really pinpointing a way to truly stop his pain.
He fell on a Thursday evening. The Wednesday before he filled a prescription for 21 Percoset (aka Oxycodone). That strong, strong opioid used to treat chronic pain. The math works out that he was to take three every day for seven days.
Then have it filled again the next week.
This powerful medication doled out this way to keep a person from taking too many.
But I know that an addict will find a way to take these pills in ways that offer the most relief. It’s like they learn how to double up one day and make up for it the next. There’s a secret here that only pain meds know. Casting a spell on the admirer. A powerful and all consuming hex that draws a person in and won’t let go.
My son was over prescribed. After I arrived at the hospital, I asked someone who was staying in his house to write all of them down for me. Please go through his medicine cupboard and write them all out for me. I could not believe what I read. Two small sheets of notepaper filled with different medications in strong, strong dosages.
Pain medications. Sleep medications. Anti-depressant. Anti-anxiety. Pills to mask this side effect, that side effect.
I knew he struggled to keep them all in order…to keep track of them all. But I thought he was doing better with it. I know he was trying.
Yet I know that my big, brute of a boy was becoming way too immune to the effects. His physicians were constantly adjusting and amping certain medications up or down. It was a yo-yo of hit or miss as to what worked and what didn’t.
So I’m sure my son picked himself up, shook off the shock of the fall, and tried to move forward on that night. I was told he started dinner. Cooked and cooked and fed his children. He was always so good at doing that. It was a big part of how he showed his love for them.
Yet I know that he was in pain. Serious pain. He not only hit his head and bit his tongue, he jarred his back.
I know he began thinking about what to do.
And from past experience of negative hospital visits and the thought of yet more appointments and more medications and more therapy…he decided to treat the condition himself.
I can hear it in his head now.
@#$! this! I’ll take care of this on my own.
I don’t know how it happened…I don’t know if he was thinking straight or if he was thinking through a medicated fog. I don’t know if he secretly was in so much pain that he could not handle it all. I will bet my bottom dollar that he was frustrated. Pissed off. Wondering why he could never catch a break.
Wondering if he would ever be normal. Ever again.
He was aware enough to know that he had a week’s worth of Percoset.
A fresh batch.
Calling his name.
He reached for it. Relief in a bottle. Respite in a pill.
Here is where it all gets fuzzy and no one knows except my son. Only he will know.
It seems that over the course of a few hours…of that 21 Percoset that were in that bottle on a Wednesday there were only three left on a Friday morning.
I don’t have to do any subtraction for you, but that’s 18.
18 Percoset. Gone.
He had to take a whole lot at once because he then went to bed.
I have to add in here that my son also suffered from sleep apnea. Horrible, horrible sleep apnea. I have since found out that many an army soldier suffers from it. Overseas on their many tours protecting us they slowly and surely inhale the exhaust from what is called “burn pits”. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, our soldiers breathe in the smoke of feces and waste that is burned just off site from their camps.
I know how bad my son slept because I spent many nights with him…listening to his snoring. I had never, ever heard anything like it before. Loud and violent. Hard to hear.
He had a C-pap machine but it was so hard for him to wear. He hated it.
That night…that fateful and horrid night…he chose not to wear it. Or he simply was too drugged and too exhausted to remember it.
I have to stop here.
I can’t go on just now.
I will write more later. But my arms are way, way too tired and my fingers are failing me.
For now, I will envision my son here in this story. Cooking and talking and loving and being in pain.
In pain but alive.
Maybe making the wrong decision to take a handful of medication that he knew would allow him to sleep. Forget things for a while. Rest.
Saying Good Night. Hugging his children. Loving them.
Closing his eyes.
Initially feeling a little relief.