So, I love to go back and watch older movies and one of my favorites is “City Slickers.” If you’re not familiar with it (because of being much younger than me…sigh…) it’s about 3 guys who take a trip to a ranch where they learn to round and drive cattle while working through the various issues in their lives.
Anyhoot, in one scene (my fave), the men share what their all time worse day was and all time best day was. It’s always made me think about what I would have chosen, and I finally have an answer…at least up to this point in my life. After all, our best and worst days can change, can’t they?
Of course my all time best day was the day my son was born…that’s a given. My all time worse day was when my nephew died on the USS McCain. Both of those are above and beyond anything else, so I’m going to talk about 2 other times in my life.
Let’s start with worse day(s)…so we can finish on the positive (that’ll be a switch…huh?). When my son was a sophomore in high school, he started having stomach problems. His dad has always had them, and O was tested for IBS, Crohns disease, food allergies, etc. Those tests all came up negative, and then we started thinking that maybe it was psychosomatic. The divorce from his dad was still pretty fresh and because O is very much the type of guy to push feelings down, this seemed to be a possibility. That was pretty much ruled out too. Finally, the specialist told his dad and I that he needed to biopsy lymph nodes in his abdominal area (they seemed to be swollen) because there was a possibility that O could have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
The minute I heard those words, my world completely shifted. It’s hard to explain, but before even knowing whether he had it or not, all of a sudden I realized that something horrible could befall my son without me being able to just fix it with a smooch or band-aid.
O was admitted to the hospital and had his biopsy, then spent the night for observation. After the biopsy was done, I asked the doctor this: “Would you be worried if this was your son?” He said: “Yes.” OOOKKKAAAYYY…thanks for the reassurance, doc. O told me and his dad that he would be fine spending the night alone…he was 15 after all! I went home, which is just a couple tenths of a mile from the hospital…I can see it from my back windows, but couldn’t sleep. I went back to his room and slept in a chair just so I could be with him. The next day, we got him showered and he came home. Then, the waiting game started. His doc said it would be about 72 hours before we knew anything conclusively.
I gotta tell you, this started the longest 72 hours of my life. My ma and I weren’t talking: I couldn’t take her husband anymore and she wouldn’t be around me without him because she knew what the consequence of leaving him out would be. So, it was pretty much just me, my hubby, and his dad. Even though hubby tried to comfort us, he still wasn’t as invested as O’s dad, and so he and I talked a lot during this time. It was our son, and we were the only ones who could really relate.
Obviously, O was aware of what was happening and tried to be brave, until that first night at home when he called me into his room and asked me to read some of his old books to him like I used to when he was a little guy. I got a few of his faves out, and in a choked voice started reading. It was so hard to do, but I wanted to reign in anything I was feeling and do what he needed me to do. We trudged through every day, trying not to think the worse, and even though hubby kept telling me to be positive, your mind can’t help seeing the darkness.
Finally, we got the call that O was OK. He didn’t have leukemia. He was battling some kind of bacterial infection in his stomach that made his lymph nodes swell. I can’t even begin to express the relief I felt. I truly couldn’t see myself living in a world without him, and to think of such a talented, sensitive, genuine boy to not have his whole life ahead of him was too much to bear. Going through something like this with your kid makes you realize the gift they are. How they are so much a part of you that you can’t really see them any other way but connected to you. How they are so inextricably tied to your heart that they have become the biggest piece of it. No matter how much I knew I was blessed with O before this, I’ve never forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to have O in my life. Truly.
Now, my best day? Easy. Y’all know I had a breakdown around 2 and a half years ago, and I hit rock bottom. We don’t need to yack about all that contributed to this, but it was a combination of so many things that I simply couldn’t handle my life anymore. I have to admit something horrible though: prior to this, I really didn’t think ‘nervous breakdowns’ happened. I thought that was a histrionic term for “I can’t handle things anymore so I’m labeling it as such.” What a stupid asshole I was.
The break was a few weeks coming as situations kept piling up. And then POW; I found myself broken with absolutely no ability to care for myself. I would cry for hours at a stretch and was incapable of eating, showering, dressing, or doing anything in terms of self-care. Just getting out of bed was a major feat, and the cry of my dogs needing to pee is the only reason why I had too. I couldn’t think straight at all…it’s like my mind got so jumbled up nothing made sense. I’d hear my doctor, my counselor and my mom talking, but I was in a dark tunnel where their ‘words’ registered, but not their ‘meaning.’ I was living alone and getting through an hour by myself was hell. This is when I started cutting, badly, and also when I attempted suicide. I truly didn’t want to live (which is so hard to recall now) and I kept sobbing to my mom that all I wanted was to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven. And I meant it. It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a truth.
The tunnel I found myself in was dark as hell, and I was petrified to even try to crawl out because that meant facing some of the demons that were challenging me. But I had too. It was slow going…two steps forward…one step back. It took weeks, but I managed, with the help of those around me, to do it. Like the breakdown, it was a process. But light started shining again.
This pic of me and Edward is so important for a couple of reasons. First, my son was visiting me from Texas where he was living at the time, and took this pic. He knew what was going on with me to a degree, but until he was here, he didn’t realize how bad I was. This particular afternoon, since I was getting better, he talked me into taking Ed to the dog park. He snapped this pic of me smiling. The first smile I had smiled in a couple of months. Having my son with me gave me so much more motivation to keep pulling myself out, because I could see the pain I was causing him. I realized I couldn’t hurt myself…couldn’t kill myself…because it would kill him. He made me remember that I was needed. Wanted. Loved. And that day in the park was my best day: I smiled. I knew I was going to be OK. I knew I was going to fight this. I knew I had people here on earth I needed to be with. I knew there was an end to this pain.
Isn’t it something how our own worst times can lead to our best days? And how the worst times in our kids/loved ones lives can give us the understanding just how precious life is? Just how much we need to enjoy each and every day we’re given?
In the movie, as 2 of the men are talking about their worst days and their best days, they use the same day for both. I guess I could too. Both of these times for me were horrific. O’s the worse…my son is everything to me. But I guess in retrospect, they were my best times too. Each made me realize how blessed I am. How lucky I am.
It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it? I hope I never do.