Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deja vue...

This is a hard week. First I lost a friend from work who went into the hospital with possible pneumonia and then died from blood clots. He’d had a heart attack about one year ago. Now, at age 57, he was gone. Just like that…gotta deal with it! It has been a very sad week at work, but at least people are posting remembrances on Facebook pages…the sentiments and occasional humor help. He was a good man.

Then I got a text message from my sister about my former brother-in-law, her first husband and the father of her two children. She forwarded a message from his current ex-wife (yes, recently divorced a second time) saying something about trying to take him off the sedation meds, but it not working. He was in a coma. What???

It seems that about a week and a half ago he had surgery for hand numbness and back problems when something went wrong. The carotid artery had been “nicked” during surgery. It was repaired and he went home, only to have it burst open a few days later. By the time the ambulance got there, he was unconscious with major blood loss and was flown to Santa Barbara, where he now lay in a comatose state.

Oh, geez, that brings it all gushing back…seeing my son, unconscious, in a hospital bed, with machines all hooked up and beeping…talking to him, stroking his hair, trying to determine if he was still with us or if this was all an exercise in futility. Watching my oldest daughter talking to him, begging him to stay with us, to come back. Tape, tubes. Feeling repulsed by the way his left hand was swelling up with fluid. Beep, beep, beep, whoosh…beep, beep, beep, whoosh…all day long, all night long. Sickening sounds.

Bill just stood beside Andrew and held his good hand. Becca sat there, staring blankly. Jayney was taking charge, talking to Andrew the most. I kept thinking, “Goddamnit… goddamnit… goddamnit.” The doctor coming in and giving us a grave prognosis. Something about waiting 24 hours, doing more tests, praying for a miracle. Bill and I watched as he checked Andrew’s eyes, which were totally unresponsive.

I don’t know what Bill was thinking, but I was thinking, “He’s gone. He is not coming back. Why do they make us wait 24 more hours? I had to force myself to be patient, to not react. Let everyone have time. We all need time. I can’t back-track on time and fix it, I thought, so stay in the present. What was done, was done! Be here for my kids, my ex-husband. I felt I knew, but they didn’t yet…let them all have time to absorb it, accept it. My fiancĂ© was there with me. My family and Bill’s family were gathering, some coming into the Intensive Care Unit to stand vigil with us, some waiting out in the lobby. Some felt they needed to see Andrew; others couldn't bear to look but wanted to support us. At one time there must have been 20 people out there, waiting. I am sure images haunted the ones that did come and look.

This stuff is all going on now with my ex-brother-in-law. His ex-wife is sitting there with him in a hospital, listening to the machines work. My niece and nephew are not there. They don’t really want to see their father like that, all hooked up to machines in a coma. I can’t say that I blame them, yet I worry that maybe they should be there. Is it better, in the long run, to avoid this stuff or to deal with it? I don’t know the answer. I do know that with every day that passes, I remember less of the hospital and more of the boy and man my son was…more of the good stuff. I keep processing it, over and over. I go to the support group, I talk about him, I write down my feelings and let it all hang out. I try to comfort my girls and my ex and my fiancĂ© and his son. I think that is the healthiest way for me to deal with it.

I am going to football games, but it’s hard…I feel him there. It was weird, watching a kickoff. As the kicker measured off his steps and placed the ball, I saw Andrew doing that same task. I took all the steps along with him as I watched his games. He did it so many times, exactly the same way, pacing off the distance, stepping sideways a couple of steps, then pausing. Hand up, running toward the ball and kicking off…okay, that was hard to watch. It was, and it wasn’t. I have to smile about that kind of memory. It’s good. These players don’t even realize they are stepping in my son’s footsteps on that same field…but he is there, enjoying the game. His spirit is there and I hope they glean some inspiration from him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Game over...

Andrew didn't take me very far...I haven't been running. Not that kind, anyway. I was busy preparing for a big dinner for the Greyhound Athletic Foundation. This is their third year of inducting top athletes and community people into their Hall of Fame. I wanted to thank them for helping me through Andrew's services by giving a bit of my time to help them prepare this event. I was definately "running" the last week, updating the ticket reservations and finalizing the plans.

I enlisted Bill's help in picking up some trees for the room decor at the Santa Margarita Ranch. The event is held in the big barn, the Asistencia as it was named in the Mission days, is the site for the yearly event. The room holds up to 32 tables and we had to put on the table clothes, add centerpieces and decorations, table tents with the sponsors' names, all the tableware, some of which was borrowed and some rented. We started at 9 am and barely finished up by 3 pm with four of us working the entire day. We could only carry 8-10 dinner plates, or cup racks containing 25 cups or glasses at a time. So we made many trips back and forth to collect dishes and set them on the tables. I must have walked 10 miles by the end of the day.

It was so worth it. I got to see 10 people be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Each person gave a speech, some longer than others, but each was truly honored to receive the award. As they spoke about their years playing sports and of the positive influence the coaches had on their lives, I thought of Andrew.

Good role modeling is what I sought for my son through sports. Being part of a team, depending on others and being consistent for the team are the lessons he learned that shaped his character. While Andrew was not the Most Valuable Player of every team he was ever on, he certainly always wanted to be. His desire was huge, and he worked hard at every sport, every season to be the best he could be with the role he was given. The experiences they talked about that night were the experiences Andrew lived through sports, the experiences my daughters had, as well. Expecially when they got to the high school level: they became part of the community which was represented on this night and it made me proud to be a part of it.

I had opened my home up to the football team for pre-game dinners during Andrew's junior and senior years, and I am so glad I did. Several moms helped out and together we would feed 30-40 boys that showed up for the meal. Those boys still remember me and will come up and give me hugs when they see me.

A plaque has been ordered for Andrew to be included on the "Wall of Fame" at the high school. This is possible through the many donations people gave following his death as a memorial remembrance. I hope when people see it and read his name they remember a smiling boy who worked hard and wanted to be the best on the field. A boy who never gave up. Who did the right thing, even when it was hard. I think, in the end, he truly thought he was doing the right thing for himself.

All I know is, the game is over. It can't be replayed, except in our minds. We can second guess every decision, every act, comment, thought, etc., but we really only had one chance and it is now gone. We gave what we had to give in that moment, and for us, came up short. Andrew will always be with us, but we are lonely without him and the game will never be the same. We miss him, and we don't get a do-over.

So I guess we do what other teams do: regroup. There will be another contest, another opportunity for us to reach out and help someone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Do you remember I just said I was going to start running and enter a race in a few weeks? Well, a little obstacle hit -- blisters. Not from running, but from dancing in heels with my girlfriends. I got a really, really bad blister on the ball of my right foot. I have been limping for two days. So no running. Maybe no race at the end of the month; we'll have to see.

I am so frustrated, and can relate to how Andrew must have felt during his senior year of high school. I think it was the third game into the football season when he broke his hand. It wasn't bad, but it really hurt if he tried to play. So he sat out a couple of weeks. He could still kick, though, so he did that much. But it caused some problems with him and one of the coaches who didn't think he was tough enough for football. Andrew walked off the field one day and wasn't going back. It was traumatic for him and for all of us. Family, friends, everyone we knew was enjoying watching him play. So I called the head coach and just asked him to talk to Andrew. The next day he went back to practice.

Andrew wanted to do everything on the team, to "be the man", but he couldn't. He didn't get the opportunities he wanted, but he never gave up. He came back and played his heart out, win or lose. Somehow the team managed to get a playoff game, even though they had a losing record. Their prize was to play the number one ranked team - Inglewood. Andrew wrote an essay about that which I posted in this blog. During that game, Andrew broke his leg and was out of sports for the remainder of the, baseball, everything.

Still, he was selected and honored as the Most Inspirational player of that football team, and later won a scholarship for his dedication to sports and desire to continue in college. He tried to come back from his injuries and play baseball, but then it just didn't work out. So much of his life and his personality were wrapped around sports, I just wonder if that didn't push him a bit further out of reality. His ego and confidence and overall sense of worth were shattered.

I had hoped that the sportswriting would pull him through it. He poured himself into his articles and wrote every sentence with the sense that it matters to not only the people he was writing about, but to the people reading it: his audience.

I think about that as I compose my essays. This is for me, for Andrew, and for you.