Thursday, April 27, 2006

The April I Remember

Pt. IX


In my mental calendar, April of 2001 lasted at least three months.

* * * * * *

My sister Healy had moved in with her boyfriend, Brian. And they had bought to a new condo in Boston and it was gorgeous and they seemed to be getting serious.

(I know they were getting serious because when I visited them for the first time, I saw that my sister had stuck a magazine ad for a diamond engagement ring to the refrigerator. We Sammis girls sure are subtle.)

Healy was in a local, Boston equivalent of off-Broadway production of a musical called Baby. She played the part of a young newlywed who was having trouble getting pregnant.

Because sometimes art imitates life.

David and I took a weekend trip to Boston to see her new place and her performance. I practically sobbed all the way through it.

* * * * * *

I took two weeks to go to New Hampshire and sort through my head. And heart.

I remember obsessing over Marcus. Hoping he would call or email.

Perhaps interestingly, perhaps perfectly, I (virtually) met Marcus just before he was leaving for a four month trip overseas. Partly in Europe, mostly in Africa. Four months. Without any sort of guaranteed contact.

I thought that was a very good thing, though. Probably my infatuation with him had nothing to do with him. Probably his going away would allow me to work my stuff out with clarity. And then, by the time he’d return in September, I would know what I was doing.

It was the first time I thought, I just need to get to the other side of summer.

* * * * * *

Oh, but I was infatuated.

That first week in New Hampshire I filled my head with thoughts of a new life with a new me and a new man.

I knowingly, willfully ignored the impossibility, the ridiculousness, the unlikelihood and just let myself feel excited about something.

I totally understand why people have affairs. I totally understand how you can ignore and shut off everything you need to so that you can feel that base enjoyment.

Oh hey look, I am still alive.

I told Marcus that I loved him. I do not know that I ever believed it. I know that I wanted to. I wanted to believe that something amazing was happening.

You know, emotional infidelity isn’t really that amazing.

* * * * * *

Ignoring the impossibility and ridiculousness, I just - tra la la - started picturing a pretend, glamorous city life.

And I knew that no matter what, whether I'd be with a David or a Marcus or nobody, I needed to lose weight. That was definite. If I was ever going to change anything, be somewhere else or someone else, I needed to be thinner. Duh.

Yeah, so I remember spending that first week in New Hampshire jogging.

Well, hey -- everything seemed fucked up and out of place. What was I doing jogging? In New Hampshire? Why was it sunny and warm while the streets were lined with four-feet high snow banks? Why was my mom not getting out of bed? What was going on?

It was all so abnormal. I clearly remember the jogging path I would take around my parents’ neighborhood, in the warming sun of spring with the bizarre snow around me, while listening to a workout mix on this cool new thing called an "MP3 player" (it held a whopping 16 songs) and musing about the tra la la future I would someday have in the land of make-believe.

* * * * * *

But I was not delusional. Reality was right there and I knew it and tasted it and returned to it regularly.

My mom weighed so little. She seemed so sick. She couldn’t eat.

So when it came time to take a long trek to go see the specialist, none of us had a good feeling about it. And I didn’t want to be by myself.

I loved my husband. He was a rock. He was my rock. Maybe he, it, our life was a bit dull, but he was an anchor.

And he was not make-believe, he was real.

I called him and asked him to come be with me.

I didn’t need a second week alone.

* * * * * *

My parents and David and I went to Dartmouth to see the specialist. She took one look at my mother and asked why we had waited so long between visits. We explained that this was the first available appointment and also we didn’t know what another visit would be for, exactly.

The beautiful, young Indian doctor was the first to ask if we’d explored the possibility of cancer.

* * * * * *

Sometime around now -- because, again, everything seems to have happened in my memory's April -- my father developed his own Routine.

He'd been with my mom for 25 years and they were each other's world.

Now, for the record, "each other's world" was not, as that phrase might conjure, a world of love with roses and rainbows and lollipops and sunshine. My parents had an unbelievably turbulent marriage. Love and passion were always at the base of it, and there were roses and plenty of sunshine, but they could fight like you wouldn't believe.

Anyway.

My dad was somewhat suddenly left with a household to run, meals to cook himself, laundry that wouldn't do itself. He managed the best he could, but this was neither his forte, nor something he wanted to have to do.

Routine. My father made himself a cheeseburger every single night.

Also, that NTN game that Hakuna and I would go to the sports bar to play? That had been something my parents played, too, back when we all lived in Connecticut. Right when my mom got too weak to leave the house was the time my dad discovered a bar offering the game, practically down the street from them.

Routine. Every day at 5 o'clock, my dad would go to Jerry's to play NTN. He'd stay for one, two, or three games (each a half-hour long).

Every day. We all needed some escape.

* * * * * *

On April 19, my sister Samantha awoke to ambulances at my parents’ house where she and her boyfriend were living. It was her 19th birthday. My mother had been in extreme pain and finally gave in and called emergency services.

[I know some dates, but mostly I cannot tell you the chronology of my mother’s trips to the hospital. She was in and out of them regularly for the rest of her life.]
Peritonitis. Following her inability to completely recover from her Christmastime surgeries, she’d developed peritonitis. They had to put her under and operate.

For those of you fortunate enough to not know what peritonitis is, it’s essentially poisoning of the stomach. People die from it, and my understanding is that it hurts like a motherfucker.

Interesting word choice, huh?


In the end, they pretty much got it all, but it was bad. My mom would be in a medically induced coma for at least a week.

That I remember.

3 comments:

  1. I look back at my first marriage and it comes in bits and pieces much like your story. We were married for 12 years though so the bits and pieces are very abundant and the blank spots more frequent. A very interesting and cathartic story. I hope you are healing for having told it.

    Cindi

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  2. I am newer to the blogging world and tripped on your blog and am loving it...I myself am going thru a tough spot in my marriage right now - so I wanted to thank you for posting your experiences and how you dealt with "the numb". It may seem weird for you to relive the experience but I wanted to say thanks and let you know there are people out there like me that are just glad to know we are not the only ones feeling (or once felt) this way!

    you are an amazing writer!

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  3. I think that game is something everyone does when their parent has Cancer and is in the hospital. When my dad was dying I could only take so much, so I would go to the local Fridays for about 3 hours a day and play trivia and drink large beers. It helped keep me sane for some reason. I was nationaly ranked. Then came the day when I didn't have a reason to go anymore. I miss him.

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