We spent last week in Ocean City, New Jersey (the seashore of my childhood) with my dad.
What was supposed to be a long-awaited family vacation with all of us turned out to be a well-timed distraction and diversion following my mom's passing.
Although the week was fraught with some rough spots (mainly sleepless nights due to Maeve's ear infection), we fell into an easy rhythm of hot donuts in the morning, days spent on the beach, and nights on the boardwalk or sitting on the deck as the sun went down.
Reality hit hard this morning as Bill went back to work and I faced a heavy case of the Mondays on my own with the kids.
(you'll rarely hear me complain about Monday as a stay-at-home mom...trust me, I love this full time gig more than any "job" I've ever had)
This is week four.
Week one was a blur of arrangements and duties that needed to be carried out.
Week two was collecting myself and getting back into our regular groove, with Max at day camp and plenty of trouble for me and Maeve to get into together.
Week three was our family vacation. Though bittersweet without my mom, I really did my best to be present and just enjoy my kids and give them a fun escape.
Week four is now.
Week four has started out on a low note.
Maeve had a horrendous night, as I am guessing the antibiotics are taking a toll on her system and she woke up wailing and flailing every fifteen to twenty minutes.
At 4:55am, my alarm (needlessly) roused me (I'd hardly slept anyway) for the Spinning class I've been teaching twice a week since February.
This was my first class back since my mom died and I'd been wholeheartedly dreading it, almost to the point of full blown panic.
Something about enthusiastically commanding a room packed with strangers first thing in the morning scared the shit out of me now.
Reluctantly, I showed up, went through the motions and lied, "It's great to be back. Breaking a sweat with you guys definitely helps."
I think I'm done with that.
Bill left for work as the sun came up and from there I pretty much lost it.
As Maeve blessedly, finally slept for a bit, I cowered in my room, sobbing uncontrollably and wondering how I'd get through today.
Max asked, "Is it because of Grammy?"
"Yes. I'm just really sad today." And confused and angry and bewildered and lonely and frustrated and really, REALLY tired...
After a long shower, I got the kids ready and took them to breakfast.
We ate outside and Maeve, the mayor of West Chester, cheerfully waved to each and every passerby and pointed to every truck.
Max had a bowl of cereal and "double bacon" while I drank coffee and pushed the eggs around my plate like a petulant child. Now what??
After breakfast, we stopped at the cemetery to say hi to Grammy.
Maeve bounded right up to her grave and started waving emphatically, which Max obviously got a kick out of and we were both like, "Awwwww..."
We straightened up the little birdhouses that sit alongside the rock that serves as a temporary marker and made our way down the path, stopping to pick some raspberries (relax, the berries weren't anywhere near sacred ground) and marvel at some of the really old headstones.
And that was that.
I mean, that's what we do on a typical summer Monday morning when nothing is on our agenda...
We have breakfast and go see Grammy.
Just like always.
I didn't even think of it that way until we were on our way back home.
I kind of feel the need to say what happened, as far as why my mom died.
She was admitted to the hospital on Monday June 23rd for a seemingly innocuous (though, serious) infection.
She went from sitting up, looking cute and joking with the nurses streaming in and out of her room about being "such a pain in the ass," to being flown to the Hospital at the University of Penn Thursday afternoon as her condition worsened.
On Thursday, the doctors insisted my dad go home and get some rest, as the next few days were expected to be a bit rough.
Again, her condition was serious, but not necessarily critical. We were told to "remain positive."
2am Friday night/ morning, my dad was called and alerted to the fact that my mom's heart rate had spiked and her blood pressure was continuing to drop.
By 3am on Friday, my dad and I were in her room on the 9th floor at Penn after a quiet, nervous drive into the city.
I was struck by the vast array of monitors, equipment and countless bags of fluid hooked up to my mom.
I was struck by the number of doctors and nurses constantly assessing my mom, confounded by how quickly the infection was ravaging her system.
We were told she was the sickest patient on the unit.
Mostly, I was struck by my mom's appearance.
Just days before, she had been wide eyed and alert.
Now, she was unconscious; heavily sedated, intubated, "sleeping" to the hum of a dialysis machine and ventilator.
On rounds that morning, I sat in as the team of specialists, residents, and all manner of medical personnel conferred about my mom.
We called upon some family members (mostly her brothers and sister, my aunt, and my best friend) urging them to come see my mom, though at that point it didn't seem or feel like we should (or would) be holding vigil at her bedside, willing her to hang on and turn a corner.
I called Graterford Prison that morning and explained the situation to somebody who would hopefully get in touch with my brother sooner rather than later.
I pleaded, "It's quite serious. Please, please let him call my mom."
Around 9am, my mom was relieved of some of the sedation and she opened her eyes.
Unable to speak because of the breathing tube, she held my hand and my dad and I encouraged her to be tough, be strong.
I lied, sensing the worst, "Rob is on his way, mom."
She was getting sicker, quite literally, by the minute.
By 11am, the head doctor (Anoop, who was easily younger than me and so incredibly compassionate), explained to us that my mom would succumb to cardiac arrest at any time.
Not if. When.
Essentially, she was on life support and at that point we needed to make the decision to let her go peacefully and without pain.
I don't mean for any of this to sound clinical or cold.
These are the facts and I just feel the need to explain it and remember it, fully.
Everything had progressed (degraded, I guess is the better choice of word) so quickly and I just couldn't believe my dad and I were faced with making that unimaginable decision, together, in that moment.
I never said goodbye, I never said, "it's okay to let go," or any of that bullshit, because quite honestly,
it wasn't okay to let go.
It was such a short and fierce fight and my mom was not ready to die.
All I could do was say I loved her and to just relax. I didn't want her to be scared.
My dad and I were together with her the whole time.
As the nurse, Priscilla, deftly and quietly removed the tubes and tape and silenced the monitors, I just laid my head by mom's side and felt her cool skin (she was hypothermic due to such low blood pressure).
It wasn't long at all that she took her last breath upon being taken off life support, which gave me some strange measure of relief.
Relief knowing it was the best thing we could do for her because clearly she wasn't coming back from this awful, awful ordeal.
My dad spoke to her the entire time and I know she didn't feel alone.
The prison chaplain let my brother call, but it was a half hour too late.
My mom had already passed and my dad held the phone up to her ear and Rob talked.
My mom was not sickly.
I've had a hard time reconciling the well meaning sentiment, "She's no longer suffering, take comfort in that..." because she wasn't suffering, she hadn't been sick.
Certainly not sick enough through any of this that her death was so imminent.
It all happened so shockingly quickly.
My mom was diagnosed with Hepatitis almost fifteen years ago.
She recently completed a new regimen of medication that finally cured her.
The virus was gone from her system and her liver was showing signs of improvement.
Over the years, she had fought the illness and in the end, actually beat it.
Back in May, my mom received a magnesium infusion under the advisement of one her specialists who had been closely following her labs.
After that infusion, my mom was hospitalized for an infection (possibly in her stomach, though never confirmed).
The month between that incident and this most recent event left her tired and wanting desperately to bounce back and get on with life.
My heart aches knowing she had so much more left to do and look forward to.
So, that's what happened (disjointed little back story and all).
My mom had not been "sick"; her death had nothing to do with liver failure or (directly, at least) the Hepatitis.
Again, a stupid, persistent infection likely resistant from that stupid infusion back in May.
If anything, maybe her situation will help save somebody else from this tragic outcome.
My mom was young and witty and goofy and beautiful.
In short, just the best.
Yesterday marked two weeks since her death.
Mostly, it still doesn't feel real to me.
Part of me still believes she's going to call me (and I'll be in the shower, like so many mornings, and she'll leave that same message, "It's just me, Talk to you sooooon.")...
I'm sad that my kids don't have their Grammy anymore, that Maeve won't get to grow up with her and that Max lost one of his best, best buddies.
I'm sad that it's not Bob & Mare anymore...I mean, not in the flesh. Bob and Mare Bob and Mare Bob and Mare...all my life.
Last night, hanging out around a big fire in our backyard with my dad and some of my very best friends, we heard an odd noise coming from behind us...
"Nahhh, I think it's coming from those trees."
They went over to investigate, as the sound became more persistent, a bit more audible.
I heard my friend say, "it's a screech owl, look up there."
Well, I'll be damned.
And as I made my way over, still hearing that funny little screech, I could see it clearly on the limb, even in the dark night sky.
As we gathered under the tree, the owl gently & swiftly swooped to another branch as if to say, "yep, I am an owl, look at me, I'm here..."
Nobody had to say it, because they all know me & we all thought the same thing , we all got it, in that moment.
I watched and waited and then not a minute later, the owl took flight again and made it's way across the sky.
In all my years here, all the nights spent hanging out in the back yard, listening and watching for critters, all the fires we've had, I've never heard or seen anything quite like that. Not a tiny little owl, not so close to us and certainly not so insistent...come see what I am...
Anyone who knows me, knows my love of owls, the most beautiful and badass birds of prey.
If that's not a sign right there, I don't know what is...