Capture Your Grief Day 26: Their Age

Oh, how little time we had, in retrospect. At the time it seemed endless, every day seemed like it would never end, like the time we had with her could stretch on and on if we just hoped enough and prayed enough. We were so tired and weary with the not knowing, with the endless cycle of different doctors projecting a possible diagnosis that always came up empty, giving everyone more questions than answers. We wondered if we would have to make hard decisions her whole life, if she would ever have a chance to be “a normal kid” or would it be test after test after procedure for the next few years. We couldn’t know we would not even have a month with her. If we could have known how little time we had, we would have done everything differently – and yet there isn’t one thing I think I would change, except I would have held her. I would have brushed my caution aside and held her every minute I could, I would have savored every second.

At the time I cried over her skin, I cried over whether or not her hair might ever grow with the deep damage to her scalp. I wondered if she would ever be normal or if kids would tease her. I spent so much time pumping milk, away from her, pumping milk that she never got to drink. In the end, nobody ever got to use that love I pumped so fervently, somebody in the NICU threw it away even as I was trying to make arrangements to donate it to a bank. (That was yet another loss I had to mourn in the face of losing my daughter, somebody carelessly throwing away my love, my nurturing, my tears and sleeplessness and broken dreams from breasts that would never hold my baby close to them, tender mommy moments that would never be. That alone was so devastating for me when the nurse called me, tears in her own voice, to tell me what had happened.)

All of it seems so unimportant now in the face of what I know. I had only 17 days with my daughter in this world outside the womb, and I will not get one day back to do over.

A whole lifetime in 17 short days.


Why We Do It

My husband is a very unique fellow. He is passionate, driven, once he sets his mind on something he gets it done no matter what. These are awesome qualities – until they are utilized inappropriately or with impatience in the mix.

Josh recently bought a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle as a second means of transportation in addition to our car. All the good points of this purchase were very plausible. Low gas mileage, less “time juggling” with not having to share the car, and best of all, more freedom for me. I no longer had the intense pressure of  getting him to and from work, picking him up on his break, and running daily to the grocery store to pick up stuff for the restaurant all in between my own ever-increasing tight schedule and the baby’s needs. Still, I was rather apprehensive about this purchase even though we had been talking about it for months.

He had originally said he wanted a cruiser body style rather than a sport bike. In fact, he had started with a very specific price range and idea of what he wanted, but as is often the case with people, (but especially men) his idea was not materializing into a reality as quickly as he wanted, so little by little he “modified” what he was looking for. His price range came up and his search began to include a wider range of possibilities. Since I know my husband, I tried to encourage him to wait for the right deal to come along, there was no rush. (I still wasn’t keen on him being on a motorcycle, it scared me.) The income tax money came in and he insisted he had found an awesome deal and he thought he should take it. There is no arguing with him when he gets to that point, but I was not quite sure. I just knew he was going to want a cruiser. This sport bike was not very big and even though he did not want to race on it by any means, it just didn’t feel completely right and I just wanted him to be happy with his purchase.

He was happy at first. After all, it is a good bike, it’s just a sport bike and it’s not good for long trips. Being it was a smaller engine size, it was not very good for carrying two people, but that was ok because I knew I would barely ever ride with him. I’m just not into motorcycles and I have a baby.

I saw how happy he was with it those first few weeks and I was starting to see how nice it was to have the freedom of going where I wanted without worrying about him. I could now go spend the weekend with my mom and his, each a two-hour drive, and not have to rush back and pick him up or drop him at work. To be honest, I started to think this was the best decision we ever made.

However, little by little he started to get a bit discontent with it. After one trip to my mom’s on it he realized that not only was it a bit uncomfortable to ride that long, but it was so light that a passing truck on the interstate made him feel like he was floating and he felt less control at the higher speeds. He didn’t feel comfortable going 45 – 50 mph in a 70 mph zone with every one around him doing 75 and even 80. He was liable to get run over, and back roads weren’t really an option time wise.

He started to search for a different one and he posted the Ninja on Craig’s List. I was not happy about this. Since he works so much, he had to squeeze this search time into the tiny bit of time we are supposed to spend together. Every waking moment it seemed like he was glued to the computer and I have to admit, my nose was out of joint. By this time I was very attached to my new schedule and freedom, I didn’t want it to get messed up if he sold his bike and couldn’t find a different one right away.

I will leave out the month of  searching, price adjusting, negotiating, bickering, sulking, re-negotiating, etc. I’ll just say that by the time he found a buyer for his old bike and a new bike to buy, I was ready to be done with this whole headache. I was tired of every conversation being about motorcycles.

Fast forward to yesterday  morning.

I got up at 6 am after a week of extreme busyness with my art, house cleaning, and preparing for my mom to come down for a visit. I had to pick her up, drive her down to Bowling Green to babysit for me, and drive her all the way back the very next day – not a very big deal, just a lot of driving. As I was getting ready to take her home, Josh told me he had a buyer coming to get his bike that day. (He had somehow forgotten I was taking mom back to Willisburg.) He was going to make the transaction on his break, but he would need a ride back to work. I would have to drop Mom off two hours away, have just enough time to change the baby and give her a bottle, and turn right around and get back so he could get to work. Then, the very next morning we would be driving to Tennessee to look at and purchase a different bike. After two days of being in the car, this was not the best thing I could have heard, but I wanted this to be over and I didn’t want him to be without a bike for too long, so I rushed on home.

Saturday morning,(yesterday)  instead of enjoying some much-needed sleep, I was up at 6am to get the baby ready and hop in the car ….again. We had to be on the road by 7am because he had to be at work around noon or a little after. Faith didn’t complain much, which was a relief, she mostly went back to sleep the whole way. We had to go about an hour south of  Nashville. The drive there wasn’t too eventful, it was raining a little when we left, but cleared up before we hit the Kentucky/Tennessee state line. We talked about stopping for some rain gear, but rather foolishly didn’t prioritize it since the weather cleared right off the bat.

The motorcycle we went to see turned out to be way out in the boon docks. A good-ol’-boy  in a trailer home with a couple of pit bulls greeted us when we pulled up. He had a little shed out back where he housed his ’98 Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. I thought it kind of comical that everything looked a little worn out, (well-kept, just old and a bit hand-me-down) every thing, that is, except the Harley. He had put a lot of custom work into it, a windshield, sissy bar, chrome, saddle bags. He was letting it go for $3,500 and all the stuff came with it, including two half helmets and a leather riding jacket. The bike was in mint condition, brand new tires, it started right up – it was beautiful. I am not a motorcycle person, but I have to admit, I really liked what I saw. It was just what we were looking for, it had everything we needed, even an extra helmet – and it was a real Harley. We gave the man the cash and headed back towards home just as it started to rain.

At first it was a lighter rain, but it soon became heavy and soaked Josh through. He had planned to stop at the nearest Wal-mart and get some rain gear, but by the time we were even close to one he was so wet that rain gear would not have helped in any way. There was nothing to do but ride. We didn’t know anyone in the area where we could leave the bike and pick it up later.

By the time we got back on I65 outside of Nashville the rain had subsided to a mist, but he was wet and it had to be cold. I followed close behind him to keep an eye on traffic and make sure nobody got too close. There was more traffic coming back, but since it was Saturday the regular week day traffic was not an issue. I was glad, it was bad enough. The road was very wet and there was a constant mist in the air making visibility worse. It’s never good to have to drive in the rain. I listened to the weather on the radio and they announced there was a tornado watch in effect. I thought, “Great, because this is already super safe and a piece of cake,” but I didn’t tell Josh, he had enough to worry about.

Thankfully the rain stayed light all the way through Nashville, but it started to pick up as soon as we were outside the city limits. We stopped for a rest at a gas station about 20 miles from the state line and I tried to give Faith her bottle, but it was cold and she looked at me with a look that I swear said, “Really?! I haven’t eaten for several hours, I’ve been really good, and you give me this ice-cold milk? C’mon!” She didn’t cry, she just stared at me for like five seconds and wouldn’t drink it. We were running low on time, so I left her to play with it in her car seat and we started to get  back on the road.

The weather was really wearing on Josh, he mentioned the possibility of leaving his bike parked at the gas station and picking it up in the morning. I felt bad for him, I really did, but I was not about to let him leave such an expensive new purchase unguarded, almost fifty miles from home, at an old truck stop that had a big sign informing people that trailers left over night would be towed. I think he knew that I was right, but he was cold and soaked and when I snapped out “absolutely not!”, he got aggravated at me and huffed back to his bike. We got out of there pretty quickly, he just wanted to get home and he was going to be a little late for work.

It continued to rain pretty good all the way to the state line and beyond, but we passed Franklin and then came up on exit 20, the Natcher parkway. It was in sight, and two miles from that was the first Bowling Green exit, we were almost home. Relief and anticipation were just crowding my mind when Josh slowed and pulled off on the shoulder. He played with his bike for a minute, I thought he was just so cold he needed a break or something. We pulled back onto the interstate into traffic, went about 200 feet, and he pulled off again. He was out of gas and the previous owner must have left the reserve tank on so all the fuel was burned up instead of being able to flip a switch and have a little extra. (His motorcycle doesn’t have a gas gauge, most don’t.) We had been in such a hurry at the last stop that we didn’t even think about gassing up the bike, the car had enough gas. Now we were literally in sight of a gas station and out of gas. At least I was right there with him, he didn’t have to flag down help.

You would think it was ok, we would just get gas, fill up the bike, continue on home without much delay, but no. On that particular stretch of 65 between Bowling green and Franklin there are no exits. There is only about 13 miles of interstate and there isn’t even a turn around, only concrete barriers all the way down. We bought a gas can and filled it up at exit 22 and then we had to drive down to exit 9 or so, turn around, and head north to where the bike sat on the side of the road. Needless to say, by the time we finally made it home, Josh had just enough time to scramble into a hot shower to try to reverse the last 2 hours of  driving with icy wind chill on soaking wet clothes. He got dressed and rushed out the door, over an hour later than he’d wanted to be, but he was still able to get everything done, including the preparation of food for his employer’s engagement party.

I was so tired and mentally drained from staying alert for six hours and watching traffic in the rain and him driving home, but Faith had slept most of the time so there was no nap for me. I was finally able to fall into bed later that night when Josh got home from work and I slept like a rock.

I put a status up yesterday afternoon on Facebook. “The things a woman will do for a man are remarkable.” Why do we do these things? This is the question I asked myself over and over yesterday, but it was answered by Josh himself. He looked over at me before any of this had even happened, while we were still on our way to pick up the Harley. He said, “Honey, I love you. I am only a tolerable husband because you are such a fabulous wife. Thank you for doing this for me.”

That simple acknowledgement and thank you warmed my heart and made it all worth it, all the rain, trouble, driving, silly motorcycle obsessions – all of it. Love is why we do it, why we all do it.