Life is fragile


Last night, I got a private message on my Facebook page to call a friend of mine that I have not talked with in almost a year.  I haven’t seen her in about 3 now.  This woman was once a part of my every day life about 22 years ago.  She was the woman who I trusted with my greatest treasure here on Earth…my heart & soul…my son.

I found this lady after traditional daycare and then a ‘babysitting’ situation did not work out.  My son was about 18 months old and my entire reason for existing at that time.  I had narrowed my search down between this woman and another but my gut instinct was to go with the lady I went with.  I have veered off from my gut instincts before but I didn’t want to make a mistake with the life of the only biological child I would ever have.  He was the miracle baby that I didn’t think I’d ever have.

The week he began going to his new home daycare, I was scheduled to have a hysterectomy at the age of 25.  I was filled with a lot of trepidation because this was a very big and scary surgery to have so young and most doctors don’t even want to discuss it with someone my age who only has one child.  I’d been plagued with issues since I’d been a teenager though so I always thought the doctor thought it was obviously in my best interest even so young.

I was a young, single mom and had been on my own with my son since he was 4 months old.  He was my entire world.  I only worked in order to provide for us.  I cared about being a good employee and was always terrified of losing my job because I had no savings or education besides my high school diploma.  So, my ‘career’ as such was not working at a trucking company as the district secretary but my career was about being the best mom I could be.

At that time, my mom and (step)dad still lived in the suburb of Corpus Christi where I’d gone to high school and once again lived with my toddler.  I was supposed to go stay with them during my recuperation period after my surgery so my mom could help me with my son.  She was the only other person I truly felt okay leaving my son with for a long period of time.  She treated him just as I did (okay…she was a grandma…she probably let him eat cookies and cake for breakfast…for sure Hershey’s Kisses…but for the most part she did everything the same).

The fact that I was going to trust a relative stranger with my child for the first time during a week that I was probably at my most vulnerable seems a bit insane I’m sure, but it is how the Gods saw fit for life to be rolling out for me at the time.

The lady who I finally chose, let’s call her Belinda, had 3 kids of her own.  She had a preteen daughter, a son who was probably around 8 and then she had a 2 year old little girl too.  She had gotten certified as a home daycare and her house was so clean you could eat off of her floors.  My floors not so much, but I digress…

My mom lived one street over from Belinda and that was another reason I felt a little better knowing that she was only a phone call away.  This was way before cell phones were the norm.  If you worked for an oil company you probably had a mobile phone INSTALLED inside your vehicle, but just to have an arbitrary phone that wasn’t connected to a house wasn’t normal.

The day I was to go preregister at the hospital came and like any other day, I took my son to his new daycare and I went to work.  I went to lunch with my boss and then, having taken the afternoon off, I drove to the hospital downtown to get paperwork taken care of for my surgery.

Anyone who has ever done this knows what a mind numbing experience this is…especially when they make you walk all over hell’s half-acre to do a jillion different things…blood-work, paperwork, x-rays, paperwork, more blood-work, paperwork, pee in a cup, paperwork.

As I was walking through the hallway I heard my name paged over the intercom of the hospital.  I was surprised to hear my name because as you can tell it isn’t an everyday sounding name.  When I found the courtesy phone in the hallway I was walking in I found my boss’s voice on the other end.  He asked if I’d talked to my mom yet.  I immediately felt my heart go up into my chest.  He told me that my son, my miracle baby, the whole reason for me to draw air every single day had been rushed to a small hospital on the opposite side of town.  When he told me that my child had a seizure I just knew he was dead.  I’m not even sure I hung up the phone as I ran out of the hospital.  I jumped into my 1985 Ford Crown Victoria and sped along the highway at 90 mph.  LITERALLY … I was terrified to drive any faster.  The speed limit was only 55 back then.  I’d already decided the cops would have to chase me and I’d get out kicking and biting if they got in my way.

As I screeched into the back parking lot of the tiny hospital where my child had been taken I saw my (step)dad rushing in.  He’d come from downtown too and was in a white dress shirt as he worked in an office building for a large oil company.  As soon as I saw him I almost passed out.  If he was there it could only mean that my child was indeed dead, I surmised.  I was bawling as I pulled into a parking slot and found myself running in my skirt and dress shoes.

I ran inside and saw my parents beyond the double doors to the back of the ER.  I was looking around like a wild woman to see if I could find the babysitter.  What had this woman done?  The nurse working the desk knew immediately who I must be because she didn’t even ask who I was there for or what I needed.  She mercifully led me to the back.  I came around the white curtains to see my 18 month old son lying on a huge gurney, pale, but alive.  I rushed up to him and he began to cry and reach towards me.  Unceremoniously I brushed past my mom and gathered him up into my arms.

The doctor came up just at that moment to announce that my son had what was called a febrile seizure.  I’d never heard of that in my entire life but I was to learn that these fever induced seizures were the leading cause of fevers in babies and toddlers.  It was probably an anomaly (it wasn’t) that would never happen again (it did).  The babysitter had rushed him here with another toddler and a baby in tow.  She’d called my mom who rushed up there and she had already left to take care of her other small charges.

My son would most likely be okay and as any parent of a toddler can attest, illness is hardly ever gradual.  It instead comes over this little person, who means more than air itself to you, like a sledgehammer falling off a roof…hard and fast.  He was given some Ibuprofen in prescription form (yes, it only came in prescription back then).  The doctor felt like this would not repeat itself and he would be okay.  He even said if daycare didn’t have any reservations, he could go back the next day.  I didn’t know what to think.

The next day was my surgery.  How could I in good conscious go through with this surgery after this happened, I asked myself.  I went to my parents home but only after I drove by the babysitter’s house.  She was still brought to tears when she saw my son.  She recounted everything and how terrified she’d been.  She thought he was dying.  I could only recount how terrified I’d been not having any clue what had happened.  She agreed to watch him the next day while I was in surgery as long as he promised not to scare her like that again.  She laughed but I still think she was half serious when she told my toddler-speaking child in grown-up English he was grounded if he ever scared her like that again.

When I got to my parents they both insisted I go ahead with the surgery.  Only my mom would go to the hospital so my (step)dad was available for Steven.  I went only grudgingly.  I was already terrified, but now knowing that my child was sick made it even harder.  Of course, I needn’t have worried.  Belinda was the greatest baby-sitter I could have ever asked for to care for my child.

My son never had another seizure when he was with her, although he had more over the years…but she as well as her family became a part of our family.  When I chose to move away a couple of years later, it was Belinda and her family I missed more than anyone else.

He had another really great babysitter after her, but it took a lot of time, trial and error and some downright bad care before we got another decent person to care for him.  I eventually had a job that was flexible enough to allow me to take him to school and to pick him up.  He sometimes even came to work with me until I got off.

Last night, I was reminded how extremely fragile this thing called life is once again.  Just like the day Belinda rushed him to the hospital, I felt the fragility of life for perhaps the first time then, I was reminded when I received a call from the heroine herself.  She called to tell me that she has terminal cancer.  She is only 53 years old.

Belinda has cared for kids her entire life since her daughter was born in 1980.  She finally got to the point where she didn’t have to run her daycare any longer, but it only happened after she found out she had fibromyalgia (as I do too).  We have commiserated over the years about the unfairness of how much fibromyalgia sucks, especially now that our kids are almost grown (and now actually are) when we should be able to relax and enjoy life instead of feeling like crap all the time.

Now when she and her husband should be able to sit back and maybe take a trip or two and drink beers on their patio after cutting grass on a warm summer evening, she is facing leaving her children and never holding grandchildren in her arms as I’ve been blessed to do.  How do I reconcile that this sweet-hearted woman who barely said sh*t would now be faced with losing everything dear….and even more importantly everyone she holds dear is faced with losing her.

Where is the justice I wonder sometimes.  There are murderers, rapists, and generally awful people who are permitted to live LOOONGGGG lives and then there are people like Belinda and even my own mama who died at 56 who are taken much too young.  My mama touched so many lives with her journey through sobriety the last 16 1/2 years of her life, and I sometimes wonder how many other lives she could have touched eventually.  Now here is Belinda who has cared for everyone…  She should be reaping her just rewards for being a good woman.  She’s been a good mama to not just her kids, but to other people’s kids too.  She has loved her husband through thick and thin and she still has 87 year-old parents who rely on her.

She made a statement about the fact she was at MD Anderson in Houston for 7 weeks and does not remember anything from those 7 weeks.  She said it seemed so weird to her to have that much time from her life be simply gone.  She said it was hard to believe that only 7 weeks ago she was dealing with chemo, thinking she still had plenty of time and then poof!  Life as she always knew it was no more.  Now she has lesions on her brain….what does that mean I wonder?

In my heart of hearts I know what that means.  In my heart of hearts I know it means I will grieve my friend.  I know that it means my son will be in Kuwait most likely when I do.  It means that I’m faced once again with my own mortality.  It means that I’m once again angry that someone I love is going to die because of cancer.

I’ve lost loved ones to cancer, suicide and car wrecks.  I went to school with people who have died in car wrecks, heart attacks, drug overdoses, and cancer.  It seems my loved ones though die from cancer.  The majority have at least…

I can’t make sense of this disease.  It is insidious, cruel and not discriminatory in the least.  It kills old and young alike.  It sucks out everything you have inside of you and still leaves loved ones asking why.  It has no rhyme or reason.  Why does a woman who has awesome genetics who should live to be 95 years old end up being the youngest in her family to die.  Why does it take doctors over a year to find?  Why?  Why?  Why?????

I’ve often said it before and I’m going to have to remind myself of this….why is not for me to ask.  Why is not for me to know.  All I have to know is that I love this person.  As long as I live, I’ll carry a piece of this woman in my heart.

I know she will be in good company when she leaves this world and moves to the next.  My son and I weren’t the only ones who accepted her into our hearts as family…my mama did too….even when Belinda called her Nana Banana with the other toddlers!  I know Mama will be there to welcome her to the other side.  They’ll most likely go drink some coffee and smoke and joke while they wait on the rest of us to catch up.

In the words of Randy Travis, “It’s not what you take but what you leave behind you when you go.” (Three Wooden Crosses)~