I relive it over and over again in my mind. For the last 3 years. It changed my world forever.
Driving down the road. Idle chitter chatter with a co-worker along for the ride. Turned down Corduroy heading due east. Heading to see Eddie. Giving the co-worker the background information and sharing a few laughs.
Itchy gitchy ya ya ya belts out Christina Aguilara from the pocket of the purse on the floor. It always made me smile. I smiled that day too. Nothing quite like hearing your voice.
What’s up sister friend? I happily spout off our familiar greeting immediately after hitting answer on my cell phone. You hesitate.
You say hi and instantly I know that something is wrong. I call you out on it. You respond with I need you. And it takes all that I have not to turn my car around at the approaching intersection and head west. And keep driving.
Instead I pull it together somehow. I call my boss and let her know I will have to go sometime but I don’t know when, or for how long. I cry through the conversation and she tells me I need to relax and breathe or I won’t be any good to anyone. I call my honey and tell her the news. We’ll get you there, we’ll figure it out, don’t worry.
I complete the drive to Eddie’s house, though I’m not certain how I got there. I put on a smile – not knowing where it’s coming from. I put you to the back of my mind because I have to. I most certainly don’t want to.
Somehow I end up back in my office. Again uncertain of the route from point A to point B. Friends surround me. Phone calls and emails to HR to get paperwork and request time off. Again unsure of whose fingers are typing on the keyboard and who is speaking to the reps. Somehow it all gets done. Somehow everyone around me knows the right thing to say.
My car travels home on autopilot. My thoughts are flowing faster than I can process. My heart is breaking, cracking really. And I am welcomed home with open arms from all of the loving members of my family. You will leave in the morning are the words I am told. I’ve worked it all out. You go, we’ll be ok.
I eat dinner, I think. Food goes into my mouth solely on reflex. I pack, not sure for how long. I will do laundry, I will buy underwear if I must. The suitcase is full, that will have to be enough.
I have flashbacks to my last urgent trip west, 3-1/2 years earlier. A much happier occasion. Still stressful, but happy. I brought baby clothes and a bassinet in the back of my Dodge Caravan. This time I pack funeral clothes and tissues in the trunk of my Dodge Stratus.
I sleep, somehow. Pure exhaustion I think. The alarm sounds early. I dress in comfy travel clothes. I climb into my car and load the latest Christopher Paolini book into my CD player. Anything to keep my mind from worrying and only on the drive ahead of me.
I email friends at each stop to let them know my progress. I talk to my honey throughout the drive. I stop periodically to eat, pee and fill up with gas. 10 minute stops tops and truly only as needed.
I take a wrong turn in Chicago. I funny bit of irony given all of the wrong turns you have taken on this same drive. I drive 20 minutes out of my way before I realize my mistake and find somewhere to turn around. I’m pissed that I lost 40 minutes but truly could care less at the extra $0.60 in tolls.
I alternate between listening to the storyteller in my CD player and reminiscing about our life together. The laughs, the tears. I wonder when the end will be.
Finally the exit I’m looking for. Autopilot kicks in. I know my way to the hospital well. Time may have passed since the birth of my sweet nephew but somehow this route was engraved forever in my memory. Whoever holds the bigger plan made sure I didn’t take a wrong turn again.
I pass the Ronald McDonald house. I smile when I remember how much Caleb looked like my Spencer when he was first-born. Cousins no matter the separation. I recall our conversations there. Your first moments as a mommy. How scared you were. How proud you were. I found a new love for you that day. We connected in an entirely new way. A way that only mommies can connect.
I park in the garage. I turn off my car and I sit. Only for a moment. I breathe the deepest breath I can muster. It is time for me to be strong. My time to cry will come.
I open the door to your room and see you there. I put on my smile and solidify my strength and take the next steps. Thus begins this new journey we will share together.