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.
Two painful years of learning how to live again.
I met Jake’s girlfriend, Rachel last night. She reminds me of you. I can tell she isn’t going to take Jake’s shit. Initially, my instinct, is to like her, because I am seeing Jake be happy in a way I haven’t seen since he has become a man.
Initially, she is quiet and reserved. She watches a lot. She’s no dummy and I think she will be good for Jake. I hope they found something with each other. They are very cute together.
I gave the boys their key chains last night and they both got three of your candles. I think they like them. Dylan is fine with a tag that says “My Hero” and Jake is fine with one that says, “My Immortal”. I also told them I’ll order one for Tristan that has a tag that says, “Mama”, that they will hold it for him till he comes back so he knows he was never forgotten.
It’s only 5:26 AM and I have been teary three times already. I’ve managed to keep it very below the surface, even as Dylan hugged me extra long last night, in that special way you must have just fucking loved. To see the compassion that he can give as a man, compared to the black out rage he displayed as a child is really a beautiful thing Mel. You would be nothing but proud. I am proud to tell the universe, you did a good job with the kids. Most of their good traits, are yours. They both have Jim’s physical work ethic, so there, I said something nice about him.
We all miss Tristan and think of him often. I make sure I call Mik, Kiki sometimes. It makes her sad, but it feels good too, because someone other than she and her two brothers remember, there is Tristan. We see the injustice his father has done to him by removing him totally from their lives and it angers me to know Skeeter is all over him. She has a right, she is his Grandma, but you know what I am saying.
I made they boys and Rachel, enchiladas last night. They went home so Jake and probably Dylan could do their shopping and do their own Xmas eve thing, but they are coming back this afternoon for a turkey dinner. As long as they will have me, I will have them on this day each year. They will get families and eventually break away, but I imagine I will always have a Holiday invite to their homes. I will take them up on it. I love being Auntie. It is the second best gift you ever gave me. Your love and trust being the first.
For now, it is time to go and turn the tears off. I love you always.
Sick n Sin Forever,
This month, I have had the urge to pick up my phone and call you. Just to have that two hour long free flow of words between us.
So much I would tell you.
I realize, this is going to happen to me the rest of my life. I got the boys key chain urns for your ashes. I’m going to get Dylan a little tag that says. “My Hero”. Jake’s will say “My Immortal”. I’ll get Mik her necklace around Valentines day because it is more expensive. Hers will say, “SnS”, as will mine. Mine will be a lover’s heart. Not that we were lovers, but you were my soul mate and I loved you so fucking deeply. I really learned so much about unconditional love by having you as my friend. True besties, are closer than lovers in a way because unlike some of my lovers, you knew everything, and the same it was with my knowledge of you and some of your lovers, or would be, should have been, your lovers. Mik’s will be a mother and child embrace. She loved the one I picked out for her.
Mik is driving. Has a job, bought herself a car and is living with her BF. Not Mason. Mason blew it with her, she busted him cheating because he left a message session open on his phone. Her BF is the tall lanky kid she went to his prom with.
Jake is with a new girl. I don’t know her name. I’ve not met her, but she has helped him feel something good again, since you died. The whole drama with baby mama, and her shit really fucked Jake up for a while. So did losing you. I am happy to see him smile and he tells me all the time, “I Love you Auntie!” He warms my heart with how giving he is with his love.
Dylan has been a steady moving ship. He’s so mellow and level headed, till he’s not. I don’t think he loses it very often anymore and when he has lost it, guess who is always involved, yanking his chain? Yep. Jake. But they are so close. Jake definitely loves his big brother. It really is something to see the tenderness between them at times. Dylan, I worry about at times because I can’t imaging him not flashing back on finding you, picking you up and driving to the ER like a bat out of hell, only to have the hospital send you to Plaza Medical Center.
So much time slipped by between the start of your stroke, and getting you the proper medical treatment you needed. I wouldn’t feel such a loss, had you not filled a part of my life so completely. I love, that even as you were fighting to die, we shared laughter. I love that even as you were fighting to die, you KNEW I had your back. I love that even as you fought to die, I KNEW your thoughts and feelings by looking into your eyes. My beautiful soulmate, how I miss your laughter and love. I can’t believe in four evenings, it will be two years since I last heard your voice and words.
I have been teary as of late, and I accept certain times of the year will hurt more.
No one has forgotten Tristan. No one but your mother communicates with him because she and What’s His Name are thick as thieves. Imagine that.
Love you forever.
Yesterday was one year since you let out your final breath as you arrived at the end of your journey.
What have I learned since then?
I realize that in a way, I’ve sort of grown up a bit. All those fears and issues I would have with life, you know the ones that we would always come back to in conversation, have had to be dealt with on my own. I didn’t have the safety net of you; the one person I could say anything to.
At first it was chest grabbing and crushing. I’d feel the panic start and that buzzing cycle that runs through an ever thinking brain, full of “what-ifs”. I have sort of learned over the last year that when I can’t reach out to you, I won’t explode. My world won’t explode but, I’ve had to resolve MY issues, on my own. That, or suffer the consequences of the cycle of obsessive thinking.
Over time, I’m learning to actually walk the rope of life on my own. Some days it is hard, other days, “I got this, girl.” Always though, I miss you and am grateful for you. Regardless of every thing you did and didn’t do to yourself, my hurt, anger, sadness…you have taught and continue to teach me much. I know I’ll never have a fill in for you, but I will always be a better friend, because of us.
I don’t feel guilty anymore for how I feel about your kids. They are mine now. We will always have a bond because of you and I will always be a tie to you, with them. I’m pretty sure you would be OK with that. Living, and watching your children grow and live, will honor you.. I will never be you to them, but I am Auntie and I will there when they need a mom figure to turn to.
The plus one day…
I woke up this morning, went out back to smoke in the frosty darkness. I thought:
So I, am 1 today. One year ago today I woke up to live without you holding my hand. I’ve been doing it one my own for a year and a day now. I’m pretty sure I am going to make it. It does feel like it will be ever so much longer without you here. I miss your laugh and you quick witted, cutting humor. I miss your love, though I know it is still there following me, as mine still does you. It’s the loss of physical you. It’s made me feel so selfish because all of this grief has been about me. My sadness. My loss. My feelings. Me, me me.
I still cry, just not as often. I just went to get a tissue to wipe my eyes and saw your ashes in the slender vile. I had taken them out the other night because I was debating them taking you with me on the one year day; to have you close to me. Instead I left you here. When I saw the vile I began to really cry. Holding the vile close to try and hug what I have left of what physically held your beautiful soul and then tucking you back in my safety place.
I also realize that everyday, the randomness of death touches someone. If you are lost, wandering, not knowing how to deal with your grief and reading this… I am so sorry for your loss. There is nothing I can say to you to make anything make sense, or stop hurting, but I do understand grief, and I am sorry you are here. My only words I can even attempt to share, the words I hang onto in the darkest moments are that Love…never dies. Physically, it changes how you live it, but it never dies, because it’s pure energy. I know that Melissa’s energy went back to beginning so it didn’t just die. It absorbed back into where it originated from. I originated from this place, and so did you. I just haven’t always recognized the moments that it still touches me, but a few times I have. Those little moments keep me going.
So, one year, plus one day. I still love you.
I’ve slipped into silence as things started to pick up and I began to feel “better”.
I colored all my silver and took the black polish off. Red adorns my fingers and toes.
I started even feeling better about Mr. Yummy and my messed up spiderweb.
But then, about three days before “Thanksgiving”, I sort of fell again. I missed talking to her yesterday, which made me miss the last year of not having her in my life. (Am I really living yet?)
I feel like somehow, I went from being a person who actually meant something to Mr. Yummy to feeling like his booty call. Isn’t that fucked up? I live in his home, and feel like his booty call. This makes me really sad because I think back to a night a friend of his died. He text me looking for warmth. I told him had he been anyone else, I’d have taken it as a booty call. He stepped back and gave himself a check because he didn’t want to make me feel that way. I feel like if he knew I felt this way now, he would put it on me.
Maybe that is where it belongs. I don’t know anymore. I just know this next month is going to be a hard one to fake and I hope I am up to the challenge.