Thursday, January 1, 2009

Flying home

I did end up sleeping a bit, not sure how much but at some point the body takes control and forces you to give it what it needs. Besides, one of my favorite coping mechanisms is to sleep so as choppy and broken as it was I did get a bit of rest although I do remember thinking how odd it was that I was going to sleep but my brother is dead. How could those two things possible fit together. Something as ordinary as climbing into bed to go to sleep when my brother is dead. It was still impossible to process.

I got up and got ready for the day right away. My flight didn't leave for hours and hours but there was still this sense of urgency to be ready. Even though the worst had already happened I was on high alert and felt like I needed to be ready for anything. I got ready, finished packing, then parked my suitcase by the door and sat down to wait. It was 8 am and I didn't need to be at the airport until 5pm. It seems like and impossibly long time to wait and and I had no idea what to do with myself. I called my sister and got an update and wished my niece a Happy Birthday. Not much of a 15th birthday for her and we all felt so bad for that.

I knew I needed a ride to the airport and knew there was someone who would be happy to run me out there. I waited until it was a decent time in the morning, assuming most people were in some level of post- new years recovery of some sort. I somehow forced the clock to keep moving until it was 10am and I called my friend Stephanie.

Stephanie and I were coworkers but didn't really get to be close friends until after I left our former employer. She had already been a confidant and trusted vault where I could spill all my secrets and know it would never go further than her. Not to mentions she is gorgeous, funny as hell and will do literally anything she can for a friend. I called her and left her a voicemail to let her know I needed to fly home because my brother had passed away. It was the first time I used that phrase, somehow it seems gentler and nicer than died.

While I waited for her to call back I started to make the first round of calls to let people know what was going on. I am very unclear on who I called when but the word started spreading as I tried to make it less true every time I uttered the phrase "my brother is dead".

The phone rang and it was Stephy, she asked what happened and when my flight was.I gave her the snapshot and she told me she would be right there. Didn't ask, just showed up. She came over in all her fresh-outta-bed, hung over glory just to sit with me. I have been blessed with having some great friends in my life but I have never experienced such a moment of true and utter love and compassion as when that girl dropped her entire life for a day just to come over and sit with me so I wasn't alone. That is the definition of friendship and I will be forever grateful to her for that day.

I opened the door when she arrived and was sobbing by the time I reached for the door handle. I had never thrown myself into someone's arms before but she was ready and held me while I cried. This was the first human contact I'd had since I found out and I didn't realize how much I needed to hug and to be held by someone who loved me.I was so broken I needed the love of others to be the glue that held the pieces together, at least until I could get home.

Stephy sat me on the couch and proceeded to turn every light in my house on. She told me she just knew I was sitting there in the dark. Now, to be condo faces north/south so I never get any direct sunlight so during the day it's always a bit dark (great for summer, keeps my air conditioning bills down). So the sitting in the dark wasn't a purposeful thing, I was just sitting.

I forget if she brought her own magazines or grabbed some of mine but she sat down on my couch and just started flipping through them. No need to talk. I don't recall if she actually said it or if I just knew that she wasn't there to entertain me or be entertained. She was just there so I wasn't sitting in the dark by myself. At some point she left to get a bite but I wasn't hungry. I did have something to eat later because I was aware that I did need to keep my own strength up so I had a Hot Pocket. I remember that because I totally remember cooking it, sitting down to eat it then it was just gone. It was so odd how I didn't recall taking one bite of it.

The hours creeped by,the clock and I have a battle. Time seemed to stop moving forward when all I wanted, needed, was to get home to my family. I don't know if it was even established of who was picking me up, all I knew is my family would be on the other end of that plane and that was the only thing I wanted.

At last it was time to leave.It was actually still way to early but I had to get there and I felt guilty for taking up so much of Stephanie's time. Not that there was anything that would have made her leave. She is just that kinda gal. I love you Steph....words can never repay the love you showed me that day.

Steph dropped me off at the terminal, the same one I had just arrived in a few days before. That struck me hard. I was a different person entirely from the one who had been there before and it had just been a few days. I was filled with relief that I was finally getting an inch or two closer to my goal. I was doubled over with powerlessness from being so far away. I felt like everything was happening without me and I was needed there so badly. I kicked myself for waiting to take a direct flight so late in the day.

I checked my bags and went to sit at my gate and do my dance with the clock again. Trying to use magic powers I didn't have to make the minutes fly by. I was crying a steady stream of tears now and I thought about how many people come to airports to make trips like this. How many thousands of people have sat in airports waiting to get home to their families because something horrible just happened. I sat there and tried to be invisible but I wondered if anyone saw me and knew immediately what I was doing there. If they did, no one bothered me.

I got a few calls while I was at the airport. I remember my friend Rob called. He was the one who took me to the airport in Des Moines just a few days ago because I had borrowed his car while I was home. He said something about trying to see me while I was back but I never heard from him. I just remember already feeling tired of dealing with telling people,wishing there was a way they could all just know and yet....feeling the compulsion to tell everyone I knew. Even people who might not be as relevant as others. There was just this need to inform. When one event changes everything about your world I guess you feel like everyone should know that while everything might seem the same, absolutely everything about you is different and they need to know that.

Finally my plane started boarding. I remember mentally apologizing to whoever I sat next to being such a sobby mess and wondering if the flight attendant would ask me if I was ok but somehow I mastered the art of invisibility because no one said anything to me and I don't remember anything about the flight other than using my full mental powers to push the plane there faster so I could GET HOME.

By the time we landed I was tired. A tired that soaks into your very bones and it was a tired that would not leave me for weeks. I moved in a fog. Everything was moving in slow motion. I felt like my legs weighed a thousand pounds (didn't know about the lymphodema yet and how true that actually was) as I tried to move forward.

The airport in Des Moines has an escalator you descend down from the gate area to the baggage claim area. I have been there and come down that escalator hundreds of times but never like this. Never had I been so weary and so glad to be where I belonged and yet wanting to be anywhere but there. Anywhere where it wasn't true that Troy was dead and that I was coming home because of it.

I saw the green of my sister's coat first. Then my eyes went right to my brother Cory. Toni was a mess and was crying but Cory was again stoic, he had a job to do and he was taking care of the family. He needed to keep it together. I looked at them both as I rode the escalator down and I remember thinking that they are all I have left. Now I just have one brother and one sister and all we have is each other.

I widened my gaze and saw that my brother in law Dave was there as was Cory's girlfriend Jessica. Then I saw my niece Sierra (again, not much of a 15th birthday for her) and Nolan. My brother's son Nolan. Seeing him shattered what was left of my ability to hold anything together and I jumped off the escalator and rushed towards them, them slow motion spell broken for the moment.

I got to Toni first and we just sobbed in each other's arms. I felt Cory's hand on my back and again thought about how we were all each other had now. Everyone had such pain in their eyes. I can't imagine what anyone else at the airport must have thought as such a scene and yet again thought about how often it must happen.

I made the round of hugging everyone else although it wasn't so much hugging as clinging. We had all been thrown into the deepest, darkest ocean and had only each other as life rafts.

We walked over to baggage claim to get my luggage and Dave jumped up to grab my suitcase the second it came out. I had my winter coat stuffed inside (when I left Phoenix it was 70, in Iowa it was 2!!) so I couldn't go out until I had it. In the meantime Cory and the kids went to pull the car around. I didn't realize it fully yet but this was the beginnings of what we called "The Bubble" being formed.

We all piled into the car and there was such a heavy silence. I was home, I had met my goal but now what? I had no idea what was going to come next. I had done my job and was giving myself over to whatever machine was in place to take care of the details.

Thank god for teenagers, and specifically Sierra. Sierra is my special girl who was such amazing intuition. She always knows when people are hurting and what they need to feel better. She became a fixture right next to Nolan and kept him talking and distracted and the rest of us entertained which is just what needed to happen.

We headed for the Amerihost Hotel (which is on the outskirts of my hometown of Boone) which would be "home base" for us all in the days to come. Debbie and the kids had checked in after driving back from Minneapolis along with her parents and sister. They were in this big room which was used as a conference/meeting room but also had a Murphy bed. Debbie and Holli were sharing the bed and Nolan had a cot.

We got to the hotel and had to bang the door down to get them up- it was 1am by this time. Debbie had taken a little something to help her sleep and Holli could sleep through a tornado so it was a task to roust them. I got my first chance to hug and be with them and I was just so relieved. After so many hours of feeling isolated and powerless I was finally somewhere that I could help and where I belonged. Although each hug and each look into some one's eyes kept making it more and more real. Troy was dead, he was really really dead.

We all needed to get some sleep so we left. I was going to be sleeping at my dad's but since it was so late I just crashed at my sister's. I started off sleeping with my niece but she is a bed hog, a little furnace and her bed is on the floor and it was just very uncomfortable for her rolly polly aunt on the floor. Again, not knowing about the lymphodema yet and my legs being in such bad shape I had no way of knowing why, just that is was uncomfortable. So I climbed down their stairs and ended up having a very short rest on their couch. I don't think I really slept much and was freezing but it didn't matter, nothing much mattered now.

I was home.

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