Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting Through Difficult Times

A year ago my beloved uncle went to the doctor because he had a pain in his neck.  His doctor ran some blood work and his hemoglobin was low and the doctor sent him for a blood transfusion.  The hospital admitted him to observe him after the transfusion.  He was diagnosed with myelogenic leukemia a week or two after being admitted and he never went home.   He spent the entire summer and fall in the hospital, before passing away two days after Thanksgiving.

I had spent many hours crying with him and holding his hand over the summer and fall, but when that weekend came, I was scared.  I didn't want to be there.  I didn't want to face the emotions head-on like that.  I didn't want those to be my memories of him, of us, of everything we shared.  I prayed and talked to friends and worried that I would regret not being there.  But I don't.  I don't regret not being there.  My mom and my aunt were with him, so he was not alone.  My memories of my uncle are not of him being sick but of everything we shared.  I am sure some people judge me for this; my uncle knew I loved him beyond compare and it's between us and God.

God Had a Plan

My mom stayed at the hospital with my aunt and my uncle through Thanksgiving and my father came here to be with Jason and the girls and I.  Jason and I grilled a turkey and made the trimmings.  It was a somber Thanksgiving.

When I am upset, I usually try to find a project to do to help me relax and allow me to focus on something else.  I had decided to paint our bedroom.  I had bought a new duvet cover and Allie had made me new curtains several months before, but with my uncle's illness, I just never got around to painting.  Jason had plans with a friend that day and he was impatient in the morning to move all of our bedroom furniture out into the living room.  He didn't wait for me to finish breakfast, he heaved and huffed and pushed and puffed, with me yelling, "Wait a minute! Let me help!"  Something popped out of Jason's leg--he thought he pulled a muscle until several hours later when he began vomitting uncontrollably and I drove him to the ER.

Thank God my dad had decided to stay home and not be with my mom, because he met us at the ER and took the girls to his house.

If I had gone to the hospital, we would not have painted our room and Jason would not have moved the furniture and he may not have gotten a hernia.  Or maybe Jason would have stayed home and done something else and he would have still gotten the hernia.  The surgeon who performed emergency surgery on Jason said the hernia was a congenital weakness and had been there for a LONG time, but sometimes you don't feel them or see them and over time, with strain they push out more and become noticeable and painful.  Who knows?  Maybe it was a weak spot and with all of the crazy work Jason was doing after Hurricane Sandy, it was just destined to pop that weekend and if I had been at the hospital with my uncle, I would not have been home to bring Jason to the ER.

I called my father to tell him that Jason was out of surgery and he told me that my uncle had passed away.  I was all alone in a surgical waiting room on a holiday weekend.  There was no one around.  The emotion I felt literally brought me to the ground.  My dad was on the phone crying out, "Do you want me to come there?  Do you want me to come get you?"  But I couldn't respond in that moment.  

I forced myself to calm down and relax and told my dad that I wanted to be there when Jason woke up.  My dad said not to tell Jason about my uncle that night and convinced me to come to his house to sleep that night.

I don't know how long I stayed in that waiting room.  I realized I was hungry and had not eaten since that morning--it had been a crazy day of painting, worrying about Jason, rushing him to the ER, ultrasounds, waiting for the surgeon, waiting for the surgery.... I decided to head to Chipotle.

Wrecking Ball

I am a huge Springsteen fan.  My family is working class, blue-collar, part Italian from Jersey for generations.  I see myself and my family in Bruce Springsteen's songs, our life, our values, our morals and our politics.  And, there is a part of us here in  Jersey that just look at it as "our boys makin' good".     

When I was 12, I went with my cousins to one of the first concerts ever at Giants Stadium (Bruce's Born in the USA tour) and a few years ago, I went with friends from church for the last concert at Giants Stadium.  At that last concert, Bruce played a song, "Wrecking Ball"a song about Giants Stadium.  

I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago 
Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers,  
I've seen champions come and go 
So if you got the guts mister, yeah if you've got the balls 
If you think it's your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball
My friends and I, we lifted our cups or warm beer that night in 2011 and we toasted that old stadium.  That was a memory I was proud of.  I was proud to have been there and to have shared that with my friends, with Bruce and well, with New Jersey (I am pretty proud of where I am from).   

Now my home was here in the Meadowlands, 
where mosquitoes grow big as airplanes 
Here where the blood is spilled, the arena's filled, and Giants play the 'Skins 
So raise up your glasses and let me hear your voices call 
Come on!Because tonight all the dead are here, so bring on your wrecking ball

In 2011 when Bruce released an album titled after the song he'd written for Giants Stadium, Jersey Springsteen fans smiled and nodded at each other.  He didn't forget us.  He knew where he was from.  He's our cousin, our brother, our friend.  Most of us know that if we see him at the beach, which many of us have, you just nod and smile and let him go his way...'cause he's just one of us.  So naming the album after our song, we appreciated like you'd appreciate a great gift from a friend.

Last summer, Allie was 12 and Bruce was playing the first concert at the new Giants Stadium and I took her.  Bruce is always emotional for me.  I usually feel like my insides are on the outside and shared with everyone there and then put back together.  Bruce and the fans, we call it being "transcended by the church of rock n' roll".  Having my daughter there, her first Springsteen concert at the same age I was for mine and seeing her "get it" and love it and lose herself in the music and the experience was beyond transcendence for me.  It will always be one of my most favorite memories of being a mom.  

Allie and I had both loved the Wrecking Ball album from the minute we first listened to it, but after the concert it never left the CD player in my car and "Wrecking Ball" was both of our favorite song.

Hard Times

After hearing Jason was out of surgery and my uncle had passed away, I lost it for a while, alone in that hospital waiting room.  Then I knew I needed to take care of myself, be strong for Jason and my girls.  I realized I was shakey with that low-blood sugar feeling and I had to eat.  I had no idea how to get to the cafeteria in the hospital, so I decided to head to the mall, which is really close to the hospital.  I knew what to find there.

I walked through halls in that hospital and got totally lost, which is crazy because in high school my friend Melissa and I had volunteered at that hospital and one of our jobs was to transport patients so I kind of always pride myself on knowing my way around that hospital.

Somehow I got to my car and I was a little scared that in my emotional state it was not safe to drive.  Springsteen's music marks a lot of emotional events in my life, I remember the events by which of his songs was playing.  That night "Wrecking Ball" came on.  

Yeah we know that come tomorrow, none of this will be here 
So hold tight on your anger Hold tight on your anger Hold tight to your anger, 
and don't fall to your fear 

Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust 
And all our youth and beauty, it's been given to the dust 
And your game has been decided, and you're burning the down the clock 
And all our little victories and glories, have turned into parking lots 
When your best hopes and desires, are scattered to the wind 
And hard times come, hard times go 

Hard times come, hard times go
And hard times come, hard times go 
Hard times come, hard times go 
Hard times come, hard times go 
Yeah just to come again
I could barely see through my tears as the meaning of this song changed for me from being about Giants Stadium and my first concert and the last concert there and my girl's first Springsteen show.  It was about my uncle and the interest he developed in football when bought an HD TV and how he and Jason shared a love of the NY Giants and how they would talk about it and how he came to watch the 2011 SuperBowl with us and how we had planned to make that an annual event.  This song became about all of the dreams my uncle and I had together of things we wanted to do together, with the girls and Jason.  It became about not wanting to say good-bye and acknowledging that life is damn hard sometimes but God sends people into your life to be there for you, like my uncle always was and to help you understand, like both my uncle and Bruce have always done for me.

So many events in my life I can recall the Springsteen song that was on in the background, and this night, as I listened to the words I realized how strong I was.  Bring it on.  I can take it.  That night was bad, but I was still standing.  Come on and take your best shot, show me what you got...I can take it.  Bring it.  Bring on your wrecking ball.  

Bring on your wrecking ball (bring on your wrecking ball) 
Bring on your wrecking ball (bring on your wrecking ball) 
Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you've got, bring on your wrecking ball 

I became aware of my uncle in the car with me and this feeling of it was going to be okay and he would be with me in some capacity all the time now.

And I made it to Chipotle and I got my burrito and I made my way back to the hospital in time to see Jason wake up.  And I was strong and I didn't break down or let Jason know what had happened.

And I went to my parents house and I lost it completely and my daddy held me.


Jason and I have had this thing since his mom passed away.  We notice the time is 10:10 or 2:22 and we would say hi to his mom and talk to her for a minute.  Since my uncle passed, we both realize we happen to glance at the clock and see that it's 3:33 or 5:55 a little more.  I just finished this post, glanced up and it was 11:11...coincidence?  I don't think so.