May 3rd- Drowning – Chris Ritchey
They say that when a person drowns their life flashes before their eyes. I am drowning – the person that was me is somewhere fighting to get to the surface to fill my lungs of life once more with laughter and hope- to breathe in the oxygen of joy. My life does not flash before my eyes as I struggle in the maelstrom but –my son dying little by little every day. I believe I could drown in the tears I have shed these months.
Another 3rd of the month rises up – like every third wave that gathers momentum and continues crashing upon my heart. ….. and I relive the last of your young life over and over and over day after day – night after night. Oh! there are good memories before the cancer and the pain of deceit tore into our lives. Maybe one day I can find laughter and joy in those good memories but I had spent the last 18 months of your life- watching every breath, listening for a cough, watching you go through the hell of chemo and transplants, the aviator glasses, no matter the sun in the sky – hiding the your eyes as your were told results. These are the days , weeks months that assault me . I remember only pain, struggle and worry and watching you lose the tentative hold on your life.
For the mothers that watch their child slip away hour after hour, day after day week after week – it is hard to remember “when it was different”– when there was joy and good memories and if sometimes those memories slip through it somehow makes it harder because like knives they rip and tear at the fabric of “should’ve been”
The mere act of making a bed in the morning transports me back – to the Cleveland Clinic- and the stem cell unit. Every morning during each of those weeks I would drive the 35 miles into the Cleveland Clinic taking you food. I would sometimes bring 3 or 4 choices as I was never sure what you would have an appetite for, if anything. I would hardly dare breathe as I opened the door to your room scared as to what I would see as they chemically killed you to bring you back, planting a smile on my face, trying to be positive . You would get up from that hospital bed , pull the stand holding all the bags of poisons sit in the chair and try to eat and drink.
I would put on a “smiling face” mask chatting inanely about weather and dogs and whatever nonsense trying to hold back the elephant in the room- hiding the terror that gripped my very core. I would strip your bed and put on clean linens every day and fresh pillows. I think the nurses thought I was a pain – but I knew how much you liked the freshness of clean linens . It was the smell of the chemicals coming through the pores of your skin that sickened you- no fresh air- we weren’t allowed open windows due to the planned destruction effecting your immune system. Every night I would drive back through the darkness wondering what I could do- should do- to help you get through and I would release the tears I had held within me all day.
I know you had the reputation of the “mean” patient because you wouldn’t eat their food. What they didn’t understand was it wasn’t the food itself it was the smell of the plastic covers that were put over the dishes to keep them warm. As you removed the cover, the steam and droplets wafted the smell of hot plastic and over cooked vegetables- well it was enough to make one nauseous at the best of times. The preservatives in the stem cells being pumped back into your system permeated the air with the smell of creamed corn. I can’t look at a can of the stuff anymore without wanting to retch.
I stayed with you every day during your hospital stays, I was with you 24 hours a day in Texas. I know how hard it was for you have me there – I was the reminder of your illness and vulnerability. I must be drowning because living your last months of your life flashes before my eyes every moment……………..