Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One night

For the past few weeks I have been in a near manic frenzy trying to get things done and organized. I wasn't really sure what was driving me to such madness but I think I know now. I was prepparing for the tidal wave. This night last year, and the week that followed it, is swimming in my head and I have been doing my best to keep ontop of it.'s quiet. Everything is done and it's time to talk about how everything in my life changed on this night one year ago.

One year... good god, how can I possibly even begin to start to conquer what this day means and explain how everything in my life changed starting with this night last year. Everyone has heard someone say that your life can change in an instant. Sometimes you get to know what those moments are and sometimes they slip past you and you can try and try to figure out when it all flipped but never pin it down. But sometimes, those moments are Mack trucks barreling down the highway and smack into you and hit you so hard you explode like a watermelon being dropped off a 10 story building. That would be a pretty good visual of what happened to me this night last year.

Note: I am going to retell my tale from my own point of view. I need to be very clear that I am sharing my story and will share events to the best of my oh-so fragmented recollection. It is not my intention to share any one's story but mine- my family never asked to be featured in my blog so I do my best to respect their privacy. While the following events obviously impacted my family and friends it is not my place to tell their stories and I have always tried hard in this space to tell only my story and not theirs. Nor have I consulted with anyone of my family members to compare notes of what happened or how it happened. I don't fully trust my own memories but they are all I have, they may not be accurate but its how it happened in my head so I apologize in advance (to everyone) for anything that is incorrect. I just want to capture it for myself and save what I can.

I had been home from Christmas for 4 days. I flew home on 12/27 (my mother's birthday) and was so glad to be back in my world. I unpacked, did my laundry and settled back into my life in AZ after 10 long days in the cold midwest deep freeze. I must have gone back to work for one day but for the life of me I can't recall going. I had only just started my job and was feeling guilty taking 10 days off after just being there for 2 weeks. I am not a big New Year's eve party person on my best days and after being gone for so long I was very much looking forward to a quiet night. When I was back home my sister made me hot chocolate every night and I was missing it so when I got home I made myself a big steaming mug of it and laced it liberally with Bailey's Carmel- a drink I was denied by my siblings at our xmas eve party and a drink I have never had since. I was all ready to snuggle in for a long night of ball dropping and movies.

My phone rang and it was my sister. She had said that my niece had decorated for a little New year's eve party but she had a bad feeling and needed to find my brother Troy. No one had seen him or spoke to him and she was worried. She said she was headed over to his house and she would call me later. I hung up and was worried but in that "it will be fine, he's just laying low" kinda way. Besides, being so far away there isn't much I could do anyways.

I sat and slurped down my cocoa feeling all warm from the inside out. I was curled up on the couch and getting kinda sleepy when my phone rang again.....(que the Mack truck). It was Toni and she was crying. She said "the worst has happened". I asked what she meant and she said she found Troy and he was dead. I remember hearing the words and understanding but not feeling anything. I just could not process the information. I asked her again what she meant and she said she had found Troy in his truck and he was gone. I don't remember the rest of the conversation other than she explained that my Dad and stepmom were on their way to his house and the police were going to be getting a hold of my sister in law and the kids who were in Minneapolis visiting her sister. She had to go and talk to the cops but asked me to call our mother and my brother Cory. I said I would and hung up.

I started to dial the phone but hung up. What if I was wrong, what if I heard her wrong. I could not tell anyone this and be wrong about it so I called Toni back and asked her again. She confirmed it and I could tell she was falling apart and she told me I needed to get home as soon as I could. I hung up again and I remember looking at my glass of hot chocolate thinking how good it was and how in the course of drinking one mug my life was shattered.

I called Cory first and he was driving somewhere. I heard his voice and that wa the first time I started to cry and break down. I told himwhat happened and what was going on. He snapped right into crisis mode and was very stoic with me. I was so mad at him for that. I wanted him to break down with me but he went right into some kind of emergency checklist of "things to do in a crisis". I guess falling apart wasn't on his to-do list. I told him I was going to call mom next and hung up and dialed my mother.

Have you ever had to tell someone their child is dead? It's not something I hope anyone ever has to experience. I was fully aware of the responsibility I had in delivering this news but I felt so guilty already that Toni was shouldering most of the drama and I wasn't able to help her, but this was mine to do. I called Mom and I was full on sobbing at this point. I needed to tell her this awful news but at the same time I needed my mommy and wanted her to comfort me before she even knew what it was I had to say. I was still physically in Phoenix but emotionally I was 1000% in Iowa. She answered and I think I just blurted it out, there is no tactful way to tell someone their son is dead is there? I just remember her scream, not a shrill scream more just actually hearing the emotion of "anguish." I had never really heard anguish before but that had to be what it sounds like. My stepfather was in the background and she repeated it to him and I heard his cry of "Noooo". I don't remember what else was said, really what else was there to say after that? At some point later on I spoke to Toni again to let her know I had informed Mom and Cory, they were headed home at last and the whirlwind of what was to come started to whip into high gear.

For my part, my only job was to GET HOME. I have never had to fly somewhere on the spur of the moment before so I had no idea what to do or what it would cost. I had heard that airlines offered discounts in such instances so I got online and called a few airlines that I knew flew to Iowa and apparently they don't offer that anymore. I checked flights and got a direct flight the next day- no clue at all of how long I'd be gone just a frantic need to GET HOME. I didn't want to deal with switching planes so the first flight I could get left at 7pm the next day getting into Des Moines at midnight. I booked the one way flight and grabbed my suitcase that I had only just put away and repacked the clothes I had just washed and put away. I packed my bag and the came back to my living room and sat down. Numb, empty, alone, powerless.

I must have emailed my boss while I was online to tell him what had happened and that I was going home and had no idea when I would be back. I must have... but I don't remember doing it.

I have never heard such a silence in my life as being alone in my house that night. Everyone I loved was in crushing, agonizing pain and I was alone and powerless to do anything to help. I just sat there and felt my soul begin to bleed.

I looked at my phone. Who do you call. Who in the fucking hell do you call at 10pm on new year's fucking eve and tell them your brother is dead? No one- that's who. You call your sister and give her your flight info and there is only so much you can say after that other than hear her say "I wish you were here, I need you here." You sit and let the slient tears flow, the firsts of thousands to come. You wait for the time to pass and you aren't going to sleep and you know, without a doubt that it will not be a very happy new year.

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