|Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 26, 2009||Chapters:||...62 63 -64- 65...|
Val steps up to the plate during a family crisis
A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind
A Lesson on Love
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
Sexually abused as a child Valerie grows into an adult with severe psychogical problems. Divorced, estranged from her children, recovering from breast cancer, no longer a CI for the police, Valerie i
"Life's up and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want."
He was also concerned about how I would handle the sudden emptiness in my life now that the case was over. I had to admit I was having a hard time adjusting to an ordinary and very boring existence.
I spent most of the day working in the yard. Without the case and daily intrigue to occupy my mind, my relationship with Mom began to deteriorate once again. We fought constantly and like always, no matter what started the argument it ended being about Daddy.
Hardest of all, the nightmares returned. The more Mom and I fought the more I used working in the yard to vent my anger and frustration. I planted a huge vegetable garden, cut down several trees, built a fence, and cleared a quarter acre of wild blackberries from alongside the driveway.
I hardly slept and had no appetite. Every night Mom came outside to literally drag me into the house, giving me one more reason to get angry with her. Despite her insistence I slow down and take it easy, I could not relax. I had to keep busy. When I wasn’t outside, I was in the house verbally attacking Mom.
Dr. L changed my antidepressant to Zoloft. I had no expectation of it doing me any more good than the dozens of other antidepressants I had taken over the past ten years. However, within a month I noticed a significant improvement. The most noticeable change was in my anger. I continued to fight with Mom but, unlike before, my anger only lasted a few hours. In the past, my obsessive behavior caused a simple irritant to turn into a major tantrum that usually lasted for weeks before eventually dissipating. The Zoloft seemed to erase the need to obsess and I found myself slowly learning to become less and less angry over little things.
Sitting across from Dr. L one day, I suddenly felt myself filled with an incredible sadness. With tears streaming down my cheeks I asked, “Is this what it feels like to be normal?”
Unsure of what I was referring to he asked, “What do you mean, normal?”
“I have been angry every moment of my entire life,” I explained.
“Anger has become an intricate part of who I am. However, lately I’ve experienced periods of time when there is no anger whatsoever inside me. It is a feeling I am not at all familiar with. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like a part of me has died. I hate being angry but I miss its familiarity.”
Dr. L smiled and said, “I understand perfectly.”
Wiping the tears from my face I asked, “Will I ever be able to forget what my father and family did to me? Will I ever be able to move on?”
Dr. L leaned forward and took my hand. “You can move on but no, it will always be with you. You have come a long way but you still have a lot of work to do. Learning to live with what your father and family did does not mean you will ever forget it. It is important you understand this.”
That was not what I wanted to hear but I appreciated his honesty.
* * *
When I arrived home, I found Mom sitting on the porch crying.
Concerned, I asked, “What’s wrong?”
Teresa called to say Ari was in the hospital again and he was in bad shape. As much as I hated Teresa, my heart went out to her. She had three children; two suffered from Rett's Syndrome, a terrible debilitating neurological disease. Erica was more severe and despite trying desperately for years to care for her, Teresa eventually had to place her in a home for the disabled. Tiffany also suffered from Rett's but her case , while debilitating, was less severe.
Tiffany was a sweet, simple girl with a heart of gold and amazing emotional strength. Everything came hard for Tiffany but her determination to succeed in whatever she did was inspiring. She met a young man and, like a real-life fairy tale, they fell in love and got married.
Everyone in the family was thrilled for her but also concerned. Rhett's is genetic and because it only affects females, Teresa knew she had a fifty-fifty chance of having a healthy grandson, something she desperately wanted. To everyone’s disappointment, Teresa refused to advise Tiffany of the dangers of getting pregnant. Our hearts sank when Tiffany announced she was pregnant and nine months later gave birth to a baby girl.
Paige was a beautiful baby but it didn’t take long before the symptoms of Rett's appeared.
Angry as I was with Teresa, I admired the fact that she stood by Tiffany and was a wonderful grandmother. When Tiffany got pregnant again, the doctor performed an amniocentesis to determine if it was a boy or girl. If it was a boy there would be a celebration but, if it was a girl, it was decided Tiffany would have an abortion. Eight months later beautiful little Ari was born. Teresa had gotten her wish. She finally had a beautiful grandson.
However, it wasn’t long before it became obvious that Ari, too, had Rhett's. Suddenly Teresa was getting calls from all over the world from geneticists studying Rett's.
Because male fetuses self-abort in early pregnancy, Ari was the only known boy to make it into the world alive. The fact that Ari had survived was nothing less than a miracle.
Teresa became an expert on Rett's and could carry on a complicated and technical conversation about genetics with some of the world’s foremost experts. Understandably, Teresa’s life’s mission was to find a cure.
I was heartbroken when Mom told me Ari was back in the hospital. He was only nine months old and his short life was filled with constant pain and anguish. On more than one occasion medics had to be called to restart his tiny little heart.
Mom began to sob. I wanted desperately to put my arms around her and tell her everything would be fine. But I couldn’t. The thought of hugging Mom terrified me.
Mom wiped her eyes and said, “He’s been on life support for three days. The doctors say there is no hope. They’ve decided to turn off the machines in the morning.”
I sat down beside Mom and tried to comprehend what I was hearing. I could not imagine the anguish Teresa must be going through. I could not conceive of ever having to make such a difficult and momentous decision.
“What time are they going to turn the machines off?” I asked.
Still crying Mom said, “Ten o’clock.”
“I’ll drive you to the hospital so you can be with Teresa.”
Mom’s response shocked me.
“No,” Mom declined. “There’s no reason for me to go.”
Horrified, I said, “What the hell is wrong with you? Of course you are going. Your daughter needs you. Ari is your grandson for Christ’s sake. Why in hell wouldn’t you go?”
“I’ll just be in the way. My being there won’t make any difference,” Mom said helplessly.
Suddenly filled with rage I yelled at Mom.
“You are insane,” I shouted. “Your daughter is about to experience the worst moment in her life. She needs you there to support her. You have to go.”
Mom shook her head and continued to cry.
Shocked and angry I grabbed Mom by the shoulders and shook her. "What the hell is wrong with you?" I yelled.
Unable to control my growing rage, I said, "What is it about this damn family that makes all of you so fucking selfish? Something bad happens and you all shut down like a broken car. God Damn it! When are you going to act like human beings and think of someone else besides yourselves?"
Mom had stopped crying and stared at me with utter disbelief. "I don't know what you're talking about."
I forced myself to calm down. I knelt down and holding Mom's hand, said, "You are Teresa's mother. She needs you. You have to help her get through this. That is what mother's are supposed to do."
Reluctantly, Mom nodded, and started to cry again.
I immediately called Teresa and was surprised when Mary answered the phone. When I told her Mom would be at the hospital at nine o’clock, Mary said, “Why? Mom doesn’t need to come.”
I insisted. “Mom wants and needs to be there.”
Again, Mary said she did not see any reason for Mom to come.
Angry, I responded with, “I am NOT calling to ask for your permission. I am calling to tell you Mom WILL be there.”
I slammed the phone down, went into the kitchen and poured myself a double shot of Bailey’s. I gulped it down and then poured myself another. Silently I asked myself, “What the hell is wrong with this fucking family?”
* * *
A few minutes before nine o’clock, I dropped Mom off at the entrance to the hospital and as she got out of the car I said, “I’d go in with you but I think right now I’m the last person Teresa needs to see.”
Mom nodded and said she would page me when she wanted me to pick her up.
I drove back home thinking about what a horrible day it was. There was nothing I could say that would make what was going to happen less heartbreaking. I kept saying over and over, “Poor, poor Teresa”.
It was well after three when Mom finally paged me. I immediately got into the car and drove as fast as I could to the hospital. When I pulled up to the entrance, I was not prepared for the smile on Mom’s face.
At exactly ten o’clock, as planned, the doctors turned off Ari’s life support machines. Teresa, Mom, Tiffany, and David stood next to Ari's bed quietly waiting for the heart monitor above his head to register the end of his life. But miraculously, after the doctor had pressed his stethoscope against Ari’s chest he declared, “His heartbeat is getting stronger.”
Within a few minutes, it was obvious that Ari’s breathing had improved. An hour later, he opened his eyes. Everyone, including the doctor, began to laugh and shout for joy.
With tears in her eyes and holding Ari’s little hand Teresa said,
“You’re just not ready to go, are you?”
Mom was so happy she couldn’t stop talking. She described in precise detail everything that happened then suddenly she stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Valerie, I don’t know how to thank you.”
I didn’t understand what she was referring to and asked, “Thank me for what?”
Mom smiled and said, “For making me go to the hospital. I thought I would be in the way but Teresa really did need me to be there with her. We spent the entire day holding each other’s hand. She told me she was so happy I came. I never knew my presence would make such a difference. Thank you so very much for making me go!”
I smiled. Mom had learned a valuable lesson! For the first time, she was no longer a simple observer. She had actually participated in her daughter’s life. I wondered if she realized what a big step she had taken.
Ari died a month later. I didn’t have to tell Mom to go to Teresa’s on that occasion - this time she knew she was needed.
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