January 2011. Horrible cold creeps across the nation and seems to settle, as usual, in the Midwest. The center of my universe is Missouri, Saint Joseph, NW corner bordering Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Deep heavy snow covers the land and below zero temperatures reign.
January 10Th, fell on a Monday, Ice gleamed in the crevasse between the top of the little Geo Metro and the door opening. The sidewalk to the car was covered with a foot of snow and all around the car the drifts were non negotiable. I strained stepping through them as I made the way to the car and pulled and pulled on the door. It was 4:10 AM. I had to be at work at 5AM and I usually left at 4:30 AM to make my way toward the main road to get to work. But this morning the doors would not open so I traipsed back over the deep drift to the house to call work for a ride. Rides would not be available until my coworker and a supervisor could come in at 8:00 AM to offer rides to stranded agents who would have gladly turned back over in their beds and back to dreamland. 365 days a year, 24/7 we had to be at work no matter the holiday or weather if scheduled to work. I waited until 5:40 am, then made my way back to the comfort of the warm bed.
I woke up again at 8:40. No school on this dreadfully cold day. My son notified me that my work had called at 8Am. I jumped on the phone to see if it was Kelly calling offering a ride. I called the cell number and told her I was ready to go as soon as she could get here. I work a 6 hr shift, normally from 5AM to 11AM but because I didn't get to work that morning until about 9:30 I had to work the 6 hrs from that time to 3:30 PM or else receive a half point for being late.
I was a disgruntled employee at this point, another ride wasn't available to take me home until 4P when another employee arrived. I caught a ride with another employee instead thinking I would get home quicker but her radiator was leaking and we had to stop at a filling station so she could add more antifreeze. By the time I got home I was more than a little angry. The man I had been seeing worked in KS and I knew he had to come this way to get home. Time came and went and no sign of anyone. I thought he would surely stop by to see if I needed anything since it was the first big snow of the season.
I pulled up my social site I frequented since August of 2009. He was on later that afternoon and I pretty much let him have it. I told him I needed the walk shoveled and the door to my car realeased from its icy grip so I wouldn't have to work all day the next day too. The walk I could master but the door was unrelenting. The car was covered with snow, the broom left inside the car so I could sweep it off after work on the way home. No way to get inside the car to get it.
Tuesday January 11th, He came and said he had left a shovel at his other house for the residents inside, then went home to plow his driveway with the tractor. I was miffed that he thought of them, his family, after passing my house up.
After shoveling a path to the car, defrosting the driver's side door, and cleaning the car and around the car so I could drive myself to work, he came inside. He was tired, feeling weak, said he had been sick all day. He said he had to carry a hundred pound bag of sand up and down 4 flights of stairs at his work in Levenworth, KS. I kissed his face as he sat crumpled on the arm of my 5ft leather couch. I asked him why he didn't tell me he was sick in the first place? I love you's spoken then he left.
I got off work the next day, Wednesday the 12th of January 2011 at the usual time, 11AM. Grateful that he had come to help me the day before so I wouldn't have to stay all day. I got a call around noon. He was in the hospital. No one knew but me. He didn't want his family to know he was there. He had left me an e mail that morning saying he was going to the Doctor's office instead of going to work. Anytime he misses work I knew it had to be serious. He is the hardest working man I know, trying to juggle a full time job and his business, family and me all at the same time had taken it's toll and the ulcer he had been harboring had torn and he was bleeding internally.
He was supposed to be there for tests on Thursday, admitted on Wednesday. He wanted me to come and see him. I grabbed my coat and headed out the door to icy road conditions to make my way to the hospital. Once there I found the room easy enough and he was there lying on the bed with the TV on. He looked so small and thin. He was a tall man, 6ft at least. He was stretched out on the bed. Talking so softly barely audible. Still complaining of weakness but that the bleeding had stopped. He was hooked up to IV's, joking with me and the nurses. The nurse told him he would probably go home on Friday.
No one knew he was there but me. I felt all puffed up that I was the only one who knew his little secret, wondering what his family was thinking, but no one called to see about him except his daughter wanting a ride 4 blocks from school. She usually called him to come from Savannah to drive in to St Joseph a 10 mile drive to take her home from school which was a mere 4-6 blocks away. Dakota, my son, had been walking to school about 12 blocks from home then another 12 blocks back. He simply told her he couldn't and she didn't press him, said she would catch a ride with a friend.
Thursday January 13th 2011.
I waited to call his room because I knew the tests would take all day, colonoscopy and upper and or lower GI. He said he would call me when the sedatives he'd have to take for the tests wore off.
He called aproximately 4:30PM. I told him I was working on my website and had a few more entries and I would be there. An hour and a half later I noticed it was dark outside and the time was 5:40! Couldn't believe my eyes. I called him and said I was coming. He sounded weaker than he had at 4:30, so I said I would hurry. I got to the hospital about 6P and went to his room. Again he was stretched to his full ht upon the bed. His color was good and reddish pink but he said he was bleeding now as bad as before but he couldn't get anyone to listen to him. A male nurse came in and talked about the lab results and dismissed his pleas for help. I asked him how was he going to drive himself home the next day. He just looked so frail. He said he didn't know. He was too tired and weak to do anything. Another female nurse came in, he joked with her and I said I was going to go and that I would see him tomorrow. He said he would call before he left so I could be there if he needed any help.
The night wore on, the bleeding kept getting worse and again the male nurse was there to witness him vomit blood into a bedpan. Still nothing was done. He remembered 10PM rolled around and then he knew nothing.
He was awakened to his Doctor trying to cram a tube down his throat about 1:30AM after she was called when he coded. She walked in to a room of nurses and a crash cart filling the very small room he was in. He heard her say, "We're losing him!" And another nurse saying he "should be dead, he didn't have enough blood to keep a baby alive." He had lost all but a pint of blood. The papers he filled out on Wednesday when he was admitted included "Would you like to be transfused" and he thankfully signed "yes" to that other wise he would have died and nothing would have been done to revive him.
He was taken to ICU, Intensive Care Unit where he slept for 32 hours undisturbed. The nurse called his son and he was at his side.
Meanwhile I waited the morning of the 14th. Waiting for him to call me to go help him to his car or whatever he needed, hoping to see a stronger more recognizable version of himself that I had known and loved for over a year.
He didn't answer the phone in his room. I called the main number and asked if he had been released to go home already and wondered why he didn't call me if he was getting out earlier? She said he has been taken to ICU. I thought only family members would be allowed in there and wondered what do I do now? She said, "His son is here and would like to talk to you, please hold on and don't hang up, he is on his way to the waiting room now." I panicked and hung up since his "family" wasn't supposed to know that he and I were seeing each other, although I know they knew but it wasn't something for everyday discussion. He and his wife had been living separate lives but were still married.
I hung up the phone before he could get on and see that it was me calling. What do I do? I thought. I didn't know if he was alive, talking, dead? How could I find out since I wasn't a family member they wouldn't give me any information? I called the gift shop, couldn't send flowers or have anything in his room not even a phone. I asked if he could except a small card to let him know I knew he was there and that I still cared what happened to him. It said: "Get Well Soon" Love Darlene. I told them to give it him and not his son. No mention if any other family members were there. Since He wanted to keep this on the down low, didn't think he would want a lot of family in there.
I initiated the help of my neice, Susan. My brother Donald's youngest girl. She had no problems contacting his son by the social site and inquiring of his wellbeing then reporting it back to me. I read what he had written on his father's site and about collapsed when he said that on Sunday the "ventilator" had been removed and he was talking and joking again. Ventilator! He had been on a ventilator to keep him alive while in ICU! I had no idea it had been that bad up to that point. I finally got the courage to write to his son and ask how he was doing and if it would be alright for me to go see him? He said he had had more tests that morning so to wait until after 3P when he would be more awake. I left home at 3P and headed for the hospital. It took a very long walk to get to the ICU and find his room. He was awake and sitting up, still hooked to IV's. A nurse was there. I started to go back, thinking the nurse was a family friend or one of his daughters. He motioned for me to come in. He was very tall, seemed taller than he normally was. Sitting in a chair. He was pure white and swollen from head to toe. I was aghast at how different he looked from his normal, reddish tint, he had been taking Niacin, and his frail, thin features were now abnormally swollen, he looked like a giant, a big white giant. Then he told me about his ordeal, how he had lost all of his blood save for 1 pint and what he had heard the Doctor and Nurse say when they were putting the tube down his throat. He had fought them with all the strength he had. He told me I just missed his wife and daughters, his mom and his brother who had just left about 5 minutes before I got there. He said he would call me again when he got his own room.
Monday January 17th, 2011
He called me on Monday afternoon and said he was in his own room now. I went to the new room on Tuesday the 18th after work as he had instructed the night before, he said everyone would be at work and should be safe enough. The new room,which was a little harder to find this time, was on the 2nd floor, not on the third floor as it was the first time. There I found a pink faced, thin as usual man, looking healthy and calm. Ahh, what a relief! A site I had been waiting for 4 days to see. I had not gotten off work at 11Am as a caller refused to get off the phone so it was about 15 minutes later when I was finally able to leave work, so I was a bit late. When I got there he said his mother and brother were coming around noon time. He had tried to talk them into coming later in the afternoon, saying he was a bit tired and not up for company but they said they would be there anyway. I arrived knowing I would have to leave sooner than expected but was so good to see him looking like his old self again I didn't want to go. He was talking in his normal voice. Smiling and laughing, relieved he had made it through his ordeal all in one piece. He had air boots on his legs to help push the blood up through his veins and to his heart. He said he needed to go to the bathroom so I helped "unplug" them and he went to the bathroom. I kept a steady eye on the clock, it was 12P. I had closed the door but kept it open a crack. I heard voices outside and saw through the crack in the door it was a man with jeans on. I had been too late and was trapped. I yelled,"He's in the bathroom" although the bathroom had a door and would have not been a problem under usual circumstances. He came out of the bathroom staring into the eyes of his mother and brother and me fumbling to get out of the room. His mother saw me and introduced herself with a smile that soon faded into a small scowel when I introduced myself as Darlene. She had offered her hand and I shook the tiny white thing, said my name stupidly, looked toward his brother who did not offer his hand and said, "Gotta go!" I tried to laugh it off and he had a small grin on his face, not knowing what to say to them as I left, I just said, "See you later". His mom said he looked nervous, and the problem manifested as I passed by the Gift Shop and ordered a small vase of paper flowers and another card that I signed this time, "Glad you're feeling better" Darlene. Purposely leaving off the "Love" part since the other card had caused somewhat of a scandal. His mother told him to hide or throw away this card so his wife wouldn't see it when she came. He did. His wife hadn't spoken to him since July 2010. They had gone on vacation to Florida and invited him to come along assuring him she would pay for it. A free vacation he couldn't pass up so he went, leaving me here to sulk, since that was supposed to be a time for us to be together as we had in previous months without having to worry about her showing up or calling and yelling about me being there, yelling for hours at a time. Just constantly yelling at him for as many as 6 hours at a time, wanting yes or no answers from him, him promising anything to get the yelling to stop. She provided no affection, no sex, but since the divorce had never been filed by either one, she considered herself still his wife and that he shouldn't be seeing anyone else until one of them filed but no one made a move in that direction. He had a lot to lose, the properties, the business, his only means of income. He had lost the job in KS, being in the hospital then not being able to do any physical labor, barely able to get around on his own.
Three weeks and a few days later, not even a month after his release from the hospital, he went into a grocery store he frequented and was told by a clerk that he saw in the paper that morning, Wednesday, Feb 9th, that he was getting a divorce. He said, "Not me! My son, by the same name is,must be him!"
American Idol was in Hollywood on that day, and I was invited to go up to his place and watch it with him. I drove through the melted streets and headed north. I packed my Diet Pepsi in a cooler as I usually spent the night when I went up there. I got to the door and it was locked. That was unusual because when he expected me he usually unlocked the door, although I knew the code to get in. I used it. I came in, he was sitting in a chair in front of the TV and the show had just started. I took off my coat and sat down. He looked like he had aged 10 years. Sitting in his sweatpants was normal for him but he was so thin. Afraid to eat anything that would aggravate his healing ulcer, vowing never to go back to the hospital again. The phone rang, par for the course, it always rang constantly, either family or friends or new customers calling. He always had it on him no matter where he was. He went into the kitchen to talk, in case I were to blurt out something or cough or make some noise as to advise the caller he wasn't alone. He came back in and said his mother had called and saw it in the paper that morning too. He again told her it was probably his son and she said "No, it was his name and his wife's name listed" she had finally filed.
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