Sometimes, Saturday and Sunday are the hardest mornings of the week. These are the mornings we power phoned, after she moved to Texas in 2008.
Not many weekend mornings go by without me getting a little emotional because two years and three months later, I still want to pick up the phone and call Mel. I wind up reflecting, remembering, reliving the woman and my time with her.
It was more than just drugs that weakened her body to the point of, at 46, having a massive spinal cord infarction AKA a stroke in her spinal cord.
Mel had three children with her husband and after they divorced, she had a fourth with someone else. Of her first three kids, her youngest had major health issues. It started when she was 6 or 7. She would get severely sick, winding up with pneumonia. They spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital. Tests were done for Leukemia, AIDS, and I don’t know how many others and always, no idea what the illness was that was causing Necrotizing Granuloma in her lungs. The CDC and NIH took samples and ran tests, it didn’t show anything micro or micra. In the lab, no one could solve wtf was wrong. It was noted that winters in Washington were not good for her daughter.
The illness was treated with chemo drugs, though she did not have cancer. Mel’s bank accounts, savings accounts and credit cards all went to the medical bills of her daughter, which reached astronomical proportions. I watched my friend go from comfortable and able to financially care for all her children with or without child support or emotional support from her former spouse, to having nothing. Her land where she was going to build was gone, her rentals were gone, her job was gone, and she had very little support.
It was the health of her daughter in the winters here, that took them away from me to Texas. I thought I would die. For almost 25 years, I had never been more than a 30 minute drive from her. I’d never been unable to contact her by phone whenever I wanted except for the two summers I was in Alaska.
A good thing did happen in Texas. Her daughter stopped getting “winter sick” (my term). Her lungs stopped dying and as she grew older, the percentage of damage area lessened. Of course, all the drugs she was on for an unknown illness, created other issues. Arthritis, IBS, and Crohns are things she lives with. At the time of her death, three of her children were with her in Texas and one was here with her ex husband.
Mel had health issues of her own. She had become diabetic with her pregnancies. I am unclear if the condition persisted afterwards. I thought not, but I found the kit and lancet pack in her bathroom after the stroke. I don’t know if she was currently diabetic or not and she wasn’t taking anything for it if she were, because. TEXAS. There was no health exchange in Texas because. OBAMA. Her daughter, was covered still through Washington, as well as the courts stepping in and forcing her ex to take some responsibility and keep his daughter insured no matter what.
Because of the health of her daughter, the amount of time spent in hospitals, at doctors, having surgeries, Mel couldn’t hold down a job. It isn’t that she didn’t try, she did. She decided to go back to school.
Right before her death, she was taking calculus. Everything hinged on passing calculus. If she failed, she would lose her funding and she would no longer be able to put so much time into her daughter’s care. She was burning herself out, was down to under 90 lbs. She was living on caffeine, cigarettes, and pills. She had suffered migraines since I had met her. It didn’t strike me as odd that she was taking stuff for a migraine. I never made the pill connection. I worried about her daughter being addicted because the names of pills they had her on. I “badgered” Mel about her daughters opioid intake.
So all this dribble came from thinking of her this morning and remembering the morning she told me she passed calculus. I was SO proud of her and I told her so. I know many people who have had to change the course of their education because. CALCULUS. I remember saying, “I am SO PROUD of you!” I remember the silence and then hearing her soft crying and heavy sigh followed by, “Thank you **sniffles** I needed to hear that.”
Her continued education was so important to her and she was the type of person who gave it her all, putting herself lowest on the pole of who needed her help. The pay off was supposed to be getting herself back to being financially independent. She had taken someone’s business from struggling, to a million dollar company. She would do it for herself this time.
I know her well enough to know how hard she was pushing herself. I know she thought tomorrow. Tomorrow I will deal with myself.
Only her tomorrows stopped Christmas eve 2014 when the stroke began. I realize in hindsight that part of the oddness in that last call, with her language, words, thoughts was the beginning of the stroke. I wish I had known. I wish I would have called 911 from my state because I suspected something, but I didn’t.
I really miss her.