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July 25th will be my son’s 11th birthday. He will no longer be 10, the age he was when his dad died; it’s his first birthday without his dad. I’m not sure how he is going to feel, but I honestly didn’t realize it was going to hit me this hard.
I’ve been having two sets of flashbacks for the past few days. The first, a glorious one. The day T.J. was born. I hope you will allow me to go back in time with you to that day. I was 15 days overdue. In July. Yeah. Exactly. I was scheduled to be induced the morning of July 25th and we had to get to the hospital by 6:00 a.m. Being as the hospital we delivered at was about an hour and 15 minutes away, we had to get up early, about 4:00, get ready and go. I woke about 2:00 a.m. that morning with slight stomach cramps and equated it to nerves. At 4:00 we got up and got ready, both Steve and I a bundle of nervous energy. We got to the hospital, they checked me in, by the time everything was done and settled I was in the delivery room about 7:00 a.m. ready to start the pitocin. My doctor came in, checked me out, and said I had actually dilated already a few centimeters but they still were still going to induce and they hooked me up. He said he’d be back later to check on me.
A bit of time passed and Steve kept himself entertained by either watching the contraction graph or sitcoms on the TV. About 8:30 the contractions really started coming stronger and I told him he better call my mom and tell her to get here. She said she was on the way. At about 10:00 a.m. the contractions were REALLY strong and I was stressing because my mom wasn’t there. Where the heck was she? I told Steve that I really thought T.J. was coming soon and he called the nurse. The rest was a flurry of activity. Steve tells the nurse that he thinks the baby is coming; she laughs while getting ready to check me and says, “Oh, it will be a while.” Then she checks me, looks at me wide eyed and says, “You’re having this baby!" We have to call the doctor!” I then start throwing up (sorry, ugh) and as I’m doing that my mom walks in all happy with stuffed animals and presents, sees me throwing up, hears Steve yell “She’s having the baby now!” and she literally throws the stuffed animals up in the air and rushes to my side. Another contraction hits and mom says “Don’t be a hero, ask for the epidural.” So I do, in comes the epidural dude, takes one look at me and says “Sorry, too late to give it to you.” and away he goes. There is an EMT in training in the room (they asked, I said okay) and the nurse looks at him and says “Ohhh, you get to see a natural one now!” The EMT looks at me with big, scared eyes. LOL. I’ll never forget that.
At about 10:45 – 11:00 they get me in the delivery position. Steve is on one side of me, my mom on the other. The doctor literally runs in looks at me and says “I didn’t expect to get your call until late today.” Sorry doc! Let the pushing begin! I remember Steve trying to take off my glasses. I remember hollering at him to leave them on (poor husbands during this time). I remember he had one leg, mom had the other. I remember the pain of the contractions, but not the pain of delivery. I remember the doctor yelling at me to stop pushing at one point, then I remember them placing T.J. on me and I cried. 11:37 a.m. our baby was born. He was so beautiful! Our baby boy. I honestly don’t remember asking him, but Steve said as soon as T.J. was born I said “Does he have both ears?” Not sure why I would ask that! But yes, he did have both ears. I remember the doctor congratulating my husband saying “Good job, you didn’t faint.” I remember also Steve cutting the cord and hearing the doctor yell “No no, not there!” (uh, where was he cutting???). Then I remember the pain and Steve’s white face, he kept telling me there was a lot of blood. They couldn’t stop it, I had torn a lot. The doctor made everyone but Steve leave. He told me I’d have to go in surgery and be put out, I begged him no, that I could take the sewing, please don’t put me under after I just had my baby. The doctor said if I made a peep or moved, he would put me under. Steve whispered “I’m here baby, hold onto me.” So I held his hand and I squeezed and I squeezed and I remember Steve actually going down to his knees I was squeezing so hard. My dad picked that inopportune time to walk in (he wanted to miss the whole delivery and walked in at the worst time). Another man’s face that I loved turned white. The doctor told him to leave, he did, quickly.
But all was well, they patched me up and I got to hold our baby. It was, and still is, the most wonderful day of my life. The day our son was born. The baby I always wanted I finally got. We were truly, truly blessed.
The second flashback I’ve been having is finding Steve dead in our bed. I see him, just lying there. The fan on the dresser pointing at him and blowing. He’s blue, so blue. I knew instantly. I cried no no no. I said “Oh no, Steve, no no NO. NO!” and I called 911. They told me to perform CPR. I kept saying “But he’s blue! Oh he’s blue! Please, please get someone here.” I kissed his cold lips, trying. They didn’t move, they were cold, there was no warmth. He had been gone quite some time. It was obvious. The operator kept asking me if I could try CPR, I kept saying his lips were cold, he was blue, oh please get someone here. Please please. She told me the first responder was almost there. I go to the door, he comes in and I rush him to the bedroom. He takes one look, touches him, the man I love, and doesn’t do anything, he leads me out and closes the door as the second responder comes. The first just shakes his head at him. The EMTs come, they have machines they carry, they can hook him up, they can try. But they don’t, they also just leave the bedroom and close the door. They wait for the police, the medical examiner. My parents arrive. So many people. Someone asks what funeral home we want to use. What? Funeral? Home? What??? My boss arrives, my manager arrives, the funeral home arrives. It is sobering seeing a hearse pull up to your house. T.J. wakes up, but he has been awake, I know, I know because as soon as he walks out of his bedroom his face is covered with tears and he is saying “I know, I know, my Daddy is dead.” I will never forgot those words, ever. I hug him. The first responders envelop him. They hold him, they hug him. The medical examiner mentions autopsy. The police start asking me so many questions. I can’t remember what I answered. They ask again, I answer again. The medical examiner rules it heart related. Decides no autopsy. They ask me if I want to say goodbye to Steve. Goodbye? We’re supposed to be having coffee together. It’s Saturday morning, it’s not goodbye, we don’t have to go anywhere. It’s our together morning. I go in the bedroom, he’s still in our bed. Someone had shut off the fan. He likes the fan on, why did they shut it off? He likes it on. I look at him, lying there, in the position to get the most breeze off his dang fan he loved so much. I say “Please, please cover him, please, he’s in his boxers, please give him some dignity and cover him when you take him.” They won’t let T.J. and I watch them carry him out of the house. We huddle in the sunroom, surrounded by the first responders, my parents, people I work with. The EMTs had left, they are for the living. They didn’t need to stay. It dawned on me, they didn’t need to stay. I then told the responders they could leave. One refused, “No, I’m staying with you, as long as you need, I’m staying.” He said he knew me, I looked at him puzzled and he said “Maroon Olds, you walk at the school on your lunch break, I mow there.” Oh, yes, the guy on the mower I wave at when I walk. He hugs me, hugs my son. The second responder says “I know you too, I’m Julie’s brother in law.” Oh yes, I do know him, my friend’s brother in law. How did I not see that before? It’s small town, that’s just how it is. They hug us, they go above and beyond a first responder’s duties. But it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter at all. My husband was blue when I woke up that morning. 7:00 on Saturday, he was blue. It was, and still is, the most horrible day of my life.
So is that why the flashbacks? The reminder of the best day in our lives (T.J.’s birth) is coming up, and I go to the other end of that spectrum to the worst day of our lives? Steve won’t be here to watch his baby grow. He was an older father, having two adult kids from other wives, but man, he loved T.J. so much. He said it was different with T.J. He loved him so much. One of a parent’s worse fears, aside from something happening to their child, is not being around to watch their child grow. Steve didn’t know his life with T.J. would stop when T.J. was 10. Neither did I. Neither did T.J. Now T.J. is going to be 11. Our lives go on. I get to watch T.J. grow, I get to celebrate another year. I get to be with my baby every day. I hold onto that because I know it can be taken away at any moment. But my heart aches these past few days because Steve doesn’t get that anymore. He doesn’t get to sing to his baby, eat cake, play with the presents. T.J. doesn’t get to have his dad there, telling him goofy stories, blowing the party favors in his face and annoying him.
So I’m running away this birthday. To Florida. I’m getting out of the house, out of our town, away from everything and I hope it helps. I hope to God it helps because I mistakenly thought the heart punches weren’t going to sneak up on me anymore and double me over. This time it’s not me I’m hurting for, I’m hurting for my son, but mostly, mostly I’m hurting for Steve and for what he is missing out on. Celebrating for the 11th time the most wonderful day of our lives.