Then, High School. The pop quiz I hadn't prepared for. Math class, with a teacher so inept and cruel, he would call us up to the board to work out problems, and then call me an idiot, in front of the class, when I couldn't figure out what "X" was. That class was so dreadful, I once, on my way to it from gym class, bashed my right wrist into the stairwell over and over until it was bruised and swollen, then went to the nurse saying I had hurt it in gym class, just so the bandage would keep me from having to write on the board. Yeah, that was pretty fucking dreadful.
College arrived and dread, once again, took new meaning. Math reared its ugly head again, with two classes required with passing grades to graduate. The 30 seconds before stepping on stage for an audition. The 30 seconds before stepping on stage for a performance. Having to call my parents and ask for (more) money. The asshole ex who mind-fucked me for two years. Dread enough, but again, nothing I, in hindsight, could not handle. I'm a tough bitch, when I have to be. And mostly, I shoot myself in the foot.
There are other things, things I won't mention here. Hard things. But I got through the dread. Got through the hardest times, knowing things would eventually look up, be better, cease their dreadfulness.
At the time, each and every situation seemed like nothing could be worse. Nothing could be harder, nothing could be more horrifying or gut wrenching. I was wrong of course. Because one day I got the call. A call I had always dreaded, but hoped would never, ever come.
Sometimes you hear people say, "my blood ran cold." You read it in a book, or hear someone say it in a film, but unless it happens to you, it's somewhat indescribable.
You feel your heart stop. Time is suspended, and all at once, you feel your heart begin to pound. You can hardly hear that the accident has happened, that he has been taken, by helicopter to the hospital. You want your heart to stop again, so you can hear over the blood, rushing in your ears. You want it to stop so that this whole situation will stop. All at once, with the pounding in your ears comes the sweating, shaking palms. It's difficult to hold the phone, difficult to make sense of what is being said to you. You shiver, uncontrollably, because you are freezing, freezing cold, and because your mind is rejecting what you know to be true, and is struggling to process this information and also keep your vitals as they should be.
Your knees buckle, the friend who calls says it's bad, but he should pull through. You call the hospital and the Emergency Room nurse says it's very bad and you should get there as soon as possible, though they are two hours away. You think the dread cannot get worse, but then the hospital calls you, as a friend is driving you, because you are completely incapable of normal behavior, and gives you step by step directions to the hospital, with a security guard outside to meet you and take your car, so you can get there even sooner.
And then you get there, and you are put into a small room with lots of tissues around, which you know cannot be good, and a doctor comes in, and introduces himself. And you think, I don't care who the fuck you are, just tell me what is happening... and he tells you.
"His right leg has a compound fracture in the thigh. This is the most concerning injury, and he was given several pints of blood in the helicopter. The first surgery will be to repair and stabilize his leg."
I ask if his brain and spine are ok,but get no answer.
"In addition to the compound fracture of the right leg, his right ankle is broken. His right hand has several compound fractures and he'll likely never regain full use of it again. His left foot is broken. His left knee is dislocated. His jaw is broken in several places, and he bit through his lip on impact, so you'll see a lot of blood around his face, and there will be facial scarring.
At this point, I lose my admittedly very lose grasp of control and scream
" I don't care if he looks like the fucking Phantom of the Opera! Are his brain and spine ok??!!!!"
He realizes this is an important point, and assures me that they are. I can breathe again.
"You can only touch his left hand. They have him heavily sedated, and have inserted a breathing tube, so you have to prepare yourself when you see him."
"When can I see him?"
"We need you to sign this."
And I do.
And I see him. And my heart stops, all over again. I take the washcloth from the nurse, and bathe the blood from his face, from around his ears. I kiss his forehead, hold his left hand, and say over and over and over again that I am there, and that I love him and that he will be ok. He gently squeezes my hand.
Then they take him out and put me in another waiting area.
An hour later, they are back, and looking concerned. I need to come with them. I need to sign another form, because they can't find a pulse in his foot, and they need to put a camera into an artery or something. I see him in a room. It is freezing and he only has a sheet covering his waist. I say I'll sign it when they put some blankets on him. I don't want him to be cold. They do, and I sign. They tell me the bone has torn through muscle and he may not regain full use of his leg. I ask if they can take muscle from me. I am a universal donor... they pat me on the back and lead me back to the waiting room.
More happens, and some of it is very bad, but ultimately I can go and sit with him. I wait for him to wake up. I wait, and wait. He develops a fever, he has pneumonia, from the tube in his lungs. They come and put a port in his chest, because they've run out of places to administer medications. I keep a firm grasp on that left hand, and I pray to every God I can think of.
I go to the Chapel hourly and get on my knees and I beg. I beg for him, for his life, for our life. I talk to my grandparents, to his mother, his grandmothers... I make every promise I can think of, and then I go back and I hold his left hand. I sing to him, I talk to him, I write to him in a journal, so he'll know about what happened while he was sedated.
Dread grows. He hasn't woken up. I know something is wrong, but cannot convince the doctors.
Finally, they take him for scans, and I fall asleep for an hour, the first hour in more than 24.
An intern wakes me. Tells me he has had a stroke. Tells me his brain is swelling. Tells me it is only a matter of "time."
See? I thought I knew dread, but I didn't. Not really. Dread is watching someone you love, more than yourself. Someone you would gladly trade places with, cease to be. Dread is waiting for the moment when he needs machines for everything and they take him away to take his organs. Dread is waiting for the final brain death test to confirm that everything you needed is gone, all of your dreams are gone, who you are as a person, as a wife, is being taken from you. And there is nothing you can do. Nothing you can do. Nothing you can do.
That, my friends, is dread. I have little sympathy for people who say "oh, the WORST thing happened..." and then commence with some story about how their car broke down, their kid got sick with the flu and they had to cancel their vacation...
And now it's back. Because the woman who killed him, the 89 year old woman who saw him coming, but thought she could make it and broadsided him, her sentencing is coming. And I will speak for him. I will speak for us. And do you know what the going rate for negligent vehicular homicide is? $500 and the permanent loss of her license.
But I will stand up, and I will tell anyone who listens what was taken from me. What has changed me. How I am now different, and it's not a nice change. How I have nightmares, almost every night- but can they be called nightmares when you're really just remembering something that actually happened? I'm not sure.
I have to prepare. I have to prepare what I will say. I have to prepare myself to see this woman, who has never expressed remorse, who is quite wealthy, and will never suffer any financial pangs. Who killed someone, and because of consideration of her age, has hardly had to appear in court. Whose only real loss has been the loss of the brand new Volvo she plowed into Adam.
And I gotta tell you I am kind of dreading it.
But, I know, it could be worse.