I would like to tell you all the story of the worst week of my life. It happened nearly seven years ago, in May of 2012. The reason I’m telling you this is two-fold. First, I found myself telling the story in person a couple times recently, and struggling to recall the details. So, I figured I should write it down before they fade away from me forever. Second, I consider this a tale of survival. A lot of fellow Opponauts have been having a rough go of it lately. Life shit-hammered me during this week in ways I could never have imagined, and yet I came out the other side pretty ok all things considered.

Wednesday, May 2nd:

Immediately after the end of the school day, I got an urgent phone call that my mom is in the hospital. Mom hadn’t been feeling well for 6-8 months, and she had been going to various doctors trying to figure out what was going on. The doctor she had visited that day found a lump on her liver, another on her lungs, and the sack around her heart was filled with fluid. Mom was in the ICU.

I got there as fast as I could. We knew she had some sort of cancer, and that she was in bad shape, but not much else. They stabilized her, and around 9:00 pm we left her at the hospital and went to dinner. Just as we were finishing our food, Dad got a call from the hospital. Mom was having a heart attack. We hauled ass out of there and got back to the hospital pretty quickly. I really don’t have the words to describe the feeling of dread, but the news at the end of the night was positive. They had done bypass surgery, and she was OK. She was understandably exhausted when we got to see her, so we kept it short and let her go to sleep. I went back to my parents’ house and I think my Dad and I both collapsed around 2 or 3 am.

Thursday, May 3rd:

This was my parent’s 37th wedding anniversary. At least my mom had lived to see it. I don’t really remember much about this day. My parents friends came and went. There was the annoying giving and taking back and altering of information that always seems to occur in hospitals. The floor above the ICU was undergoing major renovations, so we got to listen to the sound of jackhammers all day.

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My wife was due to come home that night from a little vacation with her friend. As I was on my way to pick her up, a small in size, but incredibly powerful thunderstorm rolled through the area. She landed on-time, but the interstate slowed to a crawl. I was an hour late to pick her up. I thought it was weird that I wasn’t getting any calls from her, so when I finally rebooted my phone as I was almost there, I found several voicemails from her wondering where the hell I was. We were just happy to see each other though. We went to a late night diner, and I filled her in on everything that had happened. It was another very late night.

Friday, May 4th:

Before she had left for vacation, my wife had suspected she was pregnant. That morning she took the test. We were elated to find out that she was indeed pregnant with our first child! We decided that because Mother’s Day was only nine days away, instead of telling my mom we would give her a grandmother card. This would be my mom’s first grandbaby, and she would be absolutely over the moon happy.

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We made our way to the hospital by late morning. Mom had been transferred to a regular room, thankfully, and was doing much better. She was really happy to see my wife. We got to spend several hours alone with Mom. Just chatting about life and such. At one point she said something about how great it would be when we had kids, and how much we would enjoy it. My wife and I shot each other a long look. I almost blurted it out, but I wanted to have our clever reveal, so I didn’t.

As afternoon faded to evening, Mom was released from the hospital. She climbed up into the back seat of my truck, and we cruised home. I can still see her in my rearview mirror. Happy, but exhausted. Peaceful.

Saturday, May 5th:

When I went outside Saturday morning, I found a steak knife sticking out of the sidewall of my left rear truck tire. I filed a police report and put on the spare. Thankfully my truck’s spare tire winch cooperated that day.

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All the hens descended on Saturday night to “help.” Bringing food and comotion, and well intentions. One to them kept trying to make my wife drink. I think I finally snapped and told her to leave us the fuck alone. It was a lot to deal with that night.

Sunday, May 6:

By now we were all exhausted. My wife and I stayed home to rest, and give Mom some time to rest herself. We exchanged some texts that evening. She was feeling better.

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Monday, May 7:

I got called to the principal’s office that morning. I found out I was being transferred for the following school year. I was just completing my third year at that school. I finally had the shop set up the way I wanted, knew everybody in the building and how everything worked, and had my reputation firmly established among the students. Thanks for the icing on the shit-sandwich guys, that was just what I needed.

That afternoon I got another panicked phone call. Mom had collapsed at home, and had been rushed back to the hospital. Now, from here through Tuesday the 8th, my timeline gets fuzzy. I can’t really remember what happened when. It was either Monday or Tuesday afternoon, that they did another bypass surgery on her. Mom’s blood was clotting like crazy, and they were having a hard time getting it to thin out. After all of that, we got her settled into a room on Tuesday night. My wife and I went home, but my sister had decided she was going to stay in the hospital with mom that night.

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Wednesday, May 9th:

We were awoken by a phone call at 2:00 am. It was my sister, telling me to get there right now. We jumped in the truck and headed that way. The interstate was under major construction, and was down to one lane. ONE. FUCKING. LANE. For something like 20 miles. That was an excruciating drive.

When we got off the elevator at the hospital, the chaplain was there to meet us. I knew that was bad, but I didn’t realize exactly what was happening until I saw the plaque next to the door of the room we were walking into. The Family Crisis Center. That’s when I knew.

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I honestly have no idea if it was my sister or my dad who told me that Mom had passed away. My wife and I collapsed into each other, sobbing uncontrollably. Through the tears I told them that my wife was pregnant. I was so upset that I hadn’t gotten to tell her. That I had missed my chance. My dad smiled and told me that she had figured it out.

I believe him. My mom was no fool, and she had seen that look my wife and I exchanged at the mention of having kids. Still, not telling her when I had the chance is my one genuine regret in life. I so wish I could have seen her reaction. My mom absolutely loved being a mother. I can imagine her smile, her hug, and her glee at finding out she was going to have a grandbaby, but I never got to see it.

Four days later was our first Mother’s Day without our mother. That was really hard. I can’t honestly say I remember anything about it. I still have the grandmother card that we were going to give to Mom. I felt like life had just curb-stomped me.

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Lots of people reached out to offer support. Friends near and far. I did appreciate that, but I ultimately turned inward. I poured every ounce of energy into getting our house ready before the baby came, as we were in the middle of remodeling the entire second floor when this all happened. I should have taken a little of that time for myself though. Instead I rebuffed just about everybody. That was a mistake.

As time has gone by, the loss gets easier, and the pain grows less immediate. I no longer think of Mom every single day, like I did for several years. For a long time, if I woke up in the middle of the night and had three thoughts, one of them would surely be about my mom. That doesn’t happen so much anymore.

Which is not to say that my mom is forgotten, far from it. My family all got together this past Saturday to celebrate what would have been her 65th birthday. We still speak of her often. I still think about her regularly, and how much she would have enjoyed being a grandma. I would give literally anything to have gotten to see her hold my baby just once, but that was not to be. It’s hard to believe that she’s been gone almost seven years already. Time marches on though, doesn’t it?

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Well, that’s the story of easy the most difficult week of my life. I’m not posting this to look for sympathy, or get attention. I know lots of others have had much rougher things to deal with. The most important thing I can hope to communicate, is that no matter how shitty things can get, life will go on and things will get better. Sometimes that’s a lot of work, no doubt, but there is always hope.

Here’s a picture of a big fuzzy moose cat, who is hoping I don’t kick him out of my chair (I didn’t).