Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slip Away

Oh death, that creep, that crooked jerk...
He comes, he comes walking. He comes sneaking
Down that long irreversible hallway
Grabs you in your sleep...
Yesterday morning. It's still dark out. Christine has an early dentist appointment and Trevor has strep, so seeing as I've got to stick around the house until 10:00 or so anyhow I've decided to sleep in for a bit. But at a quarter of seven or so I'm roused from a doze by the sound of my cell phone ringing.

First thought: Why didn't I shut off my cell? The batteries are going to die during the day now.

Second thought: Who the hell is calling me on my cell at this hour?

Third thought: Ummm. Why would someone be calling me on my cell at this hour?

With that third thought I felt a little clench, a flutter of worry, rise in my chest. That got me out of bed, quickly. But by the time I got to my cell, it had already rolled over to voice mail. I checked the missed calls log and saw that the call had come in from my friend Rich.

And I knew, immediately, that something was wrong. I've known Rich forever it seems -- coming up on 25 years now. I don't call as often as I should, especially since his new wife Lisa is pregnant with their first child together. He's up in New York, I'm here in Texas, and the relative blur of our lives combined with the time zone differences makes keeping in touch a bit tricky at times. But we are as close as ever anyhow -- after this long, I think we all know where we stand. But if Rich is calling me, this early, on a weekday, something's up.

I immediately worry about the baby.

Knowing that my cell battery is low, I grab my cordless phone and scroll through my contacts list, rubbing at my eyes and squinting in the dusky near-darkness as I try to read his phone number. My glasses are on my end table, and I'm at the wrong edge of the bed. I can't read the damn number, so I reach across the bed and my injured back gives me a sharp little jab to remind me it's not quite better yet. I grab my glasses, slip them on, and dial his number.

"Hey" I say and "Hey" he responds and "What's going on?" I inquire, my voice thick with worry and concern. And I'm expecting to hear "It's the baby" when he responds "It's Mom."


Rich's Dad, or "Pops" as we all called him, died last June, after fighting lung and bone cancer for over 3 years. We'd been expecting him to die for so long that, when it finally came, it was almost a relief. That sense of "well, at least that's done" that makes you feel guilty for finally being able to put that concern up on the shelf. He was supposed to last 6 months, but instead fought for nearly 3 and a half years, his health slowly declining and finally plummeting in the last couple of weeks.

Rich's parents played a very significant role in my teenage years. I've already talked about Pops, and the role he played in my life, in this post from last year. But Mom was equally important. From the time Rich and I and our buddy Pat got to be friends we were sort of adopted by Mom and Pops. And not in the "they were always so nice to me" sense, although they were always nice. But they were tough on me, too -- both of them were quick to bust me down if I was acting up too much, just as they would do to their own sons.

Their home was open to me, always, but the price of admission was being treated like one of the family, for better and for worse. Pops was a curmudgeon and a ball buster, while Mom was always a bit more ... sly. Stealthy. She'd set you up, and just wait for you to fall into the trap she'd laid. It's hard to explain, but I mean this in the most admiring sense. It wasn't mean -- it was ... well, instructive I guess. If you crossed a line, she was going to illustrate the manner in which you'd done so in clear and concise terms, in front of witnesses. She enjoyed hoisting people by their own petards.

When Rich and I talk about his parents, he never says "my Dad" or "my Mom." It's just "Pops" and "Mom." I refer to them in kind. It's comfortable.


"What? What's happened? Is she OK?" I say.

"Mom's going to die today. I'm driving there to see her before we let her go."

And that's when the air left the room and everything stopped making sense for a couple of moments. "What?" I said. And then "What?" again. And then I think "No." And then my head cleared again and I said "What happened?"


Briefly, the sequence of events was this: She went into the hospital for a "routine" hernia operation on Friday. Came through the surgery with flying colors, was up and moving and doing fine within a day. Apparently though, she collapsed and went into shock Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (I'm a little sketchy on the details here -- not sure if she was home or still in the hospital). They opened her up and found that, somehow, the blood supply to her small intestine had been blocked. It was 90%+ destroyed. They removed it, closed her back up, and put her on life support. Rich and Andy were advised that, even if she regained consciousness -- which was unlikely -- she could not live without that much of her intestines. I assume that she would starve to death, slowly. It's too horrible to even contemplate.

So they made the only decision that could be made. Rich drove there, and they all stood by her bedside as life support was removed. Her body kept going for about a half hour, but that was it. Her strength had been utterly destroyed by the illness and the shock. She went from full recovery to death within a 4 day span. They're doing a full autopsy to figure out what went wrong. The surgeons are saying they've never seen anything like this, which leads me to believe that someone made a big mistake during the surgery. Something was left in that should have been taken out, or something. Explanations would be nice. But for now there's just the blow and the shock and this odd, tingling numbness.

I'm thinking about the way that lost things always come back
Looking like something else
A fishing pole, a shoe, an old shirt, a lucky day
Ooo then they slip away into the remains of the day
Ooo they slip away. They slip away.

If this is true, I'm not sure how Mom would come back, and what she would look like. But it would be something funny, and off-kilter, and comforting, but with a few sharp edges. Something that would not be wise to take lightly.

But one thing is certain: Whatever it is, it would sparkle and shine.

Sue "Mom" Brown
Rest in Peace

Mood: About as good as can be expected
Now Playing: Nothing


Rich said...

Thanks, mom could be both parental and one of the gang at the same time. She loved my friends as much as her own children because we didn't bring idiots, morons, burn outs, or other seedy types into the house. Our friends were (and are) good people.

She fiercely defended her children and loved her grand kids to no end.

There are so many questions that need to be answered. There is anger, and that feeling of something just doesn't add up.

Please know that one thing my mom said to me ten months ago was that when it was her time that she wanted her family around her. We were very fortunate that wish was fulfilled.

Walt said...


Again, I'm so sorry for your loss. You, your friend and his family are in my thoughts.