Monday, October 24, 2011

How I Spent 9/11

The day after the last post on this blog, I was sitting in front of the TV like so many other Americans watching the 9/11 Memorial coverage at Ground Zero.
Like I do every year, I listened as the bells were rung to commemorate when each plane hit and as each tower fell.
I listened to the reading off of the names and cried when they reached the name of the loved one I'd lost ten years ago.
I honored those lost and those left behind by lighting two pillar candles in remembrance.
I turned off the TV and went about my morning with plans to take the kids to a local 9/11 Memorial which was close to a park.
I wanted to honor the day by going out and living the life I am so blessed to have.
It was 11am when my phone rang.
The caller ID said it was PrinceCharming. The voice on the other end, however, couldn't have been farther from his.
It was his sister. She was calling to tell me that my (not yet) ex-husband had been in a head on collision early that morning and was in the Trauma ICU at a local hospital.
He's going to be ok but he wanted me to call to tell you.
Sorry, but the letters "I-C-U" and "O-K" don't go together in my Dictionary.
I hung up the phone in a daze as my 9 and 5 year olds played blissfully unaware of the new 9/11 tragedy that may or may not be playing out in our lives.
My mind went blank.
What was I to do? What do I tell the kids?? What am I supposed to say??? How am I supposed to feel????
I was alone.
And in new territory.
I hadn't spoken with my SIL in close to two years and doubted I would get very many answers from her any time soon.
Knowing she suffers the same passive-agressive tendencies as her brother, I called in reinforcements and notified every one of PrinceCharming's and my mutual friends. I needed to know the truth of what had happened to my childrens' father and I needed to know it N-O-W.
As I struggled to remain calm in front of our kids, I texted and snuck phone calls to relay what little information I had.
We're on our way and will call you from the hospital.
Our friends descended upon Trauma ICU en masse and over the course of the next several weeks proved invaluable to my sanity.
For the two days following I was with my (not yet) ex-husband at his bedside while our kids were at school, needing to see for myself the extent of his injuries and whether or not he truly would be OK.
He was intubated, yet conscious.
He couldn't speak but his body language communicated VOLUMES that only I could understand. I relayed instructions to those who were taking charge of his care (a job that once belonged to me), so they could do their best to make sure he was comfortable.
I held PrinceCharming's hand and reassured him the kids were ok and would be ok.
I looked into his eyes and he squeezed my hand in acknowledgement and thanks.

(Of course, I was referring to Hansel and Gretel whom I had control over what and how the information would be disseminated. Cinderella, OTOH, was at my SILs house when the accident occurred and was told moments before her BioMom came to pick her up. This was not what PrinceCharming wanted.)

(Cinderella had started the school year at her mother's, not by choice, but due to PrinceCharming's struggles with his depression and trying to balance a new job at an internet start-up. She has been allowed to see her father TWICE in the past six weeks, despite many attempts by me to make this situation right. This past weekend I succeeded, with his help, and was able to bring all of our kids to him for a visit.)

These past six weeks have consisted of MRIs, CT Scans, X-Rays, ER visits and long stints in two hospitals.
My (not yet) ex-husband is lucky to be alive.
He's been up against numerous broken and shattered bones paired with traumatic brain injury resulting in memory loss.
Compound all of that with post-traumatic stress no doubt added to his pre-existing anxiety and depression.
The lines of reality and perceived reality as a result of this emotional dysregulation are blurry at best.

I'm in unfamiliar yet all-too-familiar territory at the same time.
Once primary care-giver now bystander.
I'm faced with the challenge of knowing his flair for melodrama, penchant for providing minimum information for maximum impact and isolationism, while being empathetic to his situation and the indisputable injuries he has suffered.
Having to step back without walking away is difficult.
Prince Charmng has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of him.
It seems, I do too.