Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 22, 1995

First, let me say that I know that I'm writing this on the 23rd. It was more or less written in my head several times over the course of the day yesterday, I was just unable to get enough time at the computer to churn this out.

Eighteen years ago started off innocently enough. An able bodied 19 year old jumped into her manual Chevy Sprint and drove on an unseasonably warm February morning in Iowa to an early morning appointment. She'd had meningitis earlier in the month, and being off her parents' insurance, she was applying for Medicaid to help with the bill. That girl started the day off vowing to cast aside her partying days, buckle down, and get her life back on track.

After the appointment, she was going to the learning center to work on getting her belated high school diploma. There was a faster route, but again taking advantage of the unseasonably warm day, she took the longer, scenic way, country roads and interstate, shifting away on that manual transmission. Working her way through what was her last pack of cigarettes.

At the learning center, she plowed her way through the last of the math course she had to take to get her real high school diploma. Government was the only thing left. She then drove to her paternal grandparents' machine shop and volunteered for any running around that needed to be done.

Errands done, she returned to her maternal grandparents', with whom she was living, to have Grandma's roast with mashed potatoes, frozen corn from Grandpa's garden, and chocolate pudding for dessert. It had already been decided that she would spend the night at her parents' home since bridge club was being hosted at their house that evening.

The girl made two stops on the way to her parents'; Sears to pick up the VCR that was in for repair, and the movie rental store her uncle managed, where she rented three Hugh Grant flicks. Then, it was off to the parents'.

Her mom was just leaving to go to a meeting or something. The twins were off being the social butterflies that they were, and her dad was off doing something. Time for the Hugh Grant marathon.

When her mom got home, the girl was just finishing up her last movie. She said she was going to write in her journal on the computer and then take a bath and go to bed. Her mom thought that she seemed a little off, but said nothing, not even when that 19 year old girl asked if she could sleep on the floor in her parents' room.

That girl was me. I had on occasion slept on my parents' floor in the past, usually in the event of something traumatic, like a friend's untimely death, my dad catching my peeping Tom, right after the meningitis, things like that. Mom thought nothing of it as she went to make up my little nest while I went into the bathroom to take a nice hot bath.

I still remember that bath like I just took it. I put the stopper on and got the temperature of the water just right, then disrobed. I got in the tub and grabbed one of the Rolling Stones that was in the mens' reading library, taking in the gorgeous guy on the cover as I stretched out in the tub, feet up on the faucet.

It was what happened next that turned my whole world upside down, and I have been grappling with it ever since. My right arm and right leg just fell into the water, but I hadn't done it. I tried to return them to their previous positions and nothing happened. I tried to call for my mom, the registered nurse. I felt my mouth move, but nothing came out. I tried again, this time as a yell for my mom... the same ensuing result.

I had enough of my wits about me to turn the water off with my left foot and pulled the plug the same way. Then, I tried to get myself out of the tub, which served to raise the alarm. One makes a LOT of noise trying to get out of a bath tub when  one side of their body has taken an unauthorized vacation. As fate would have it, the bathtub shared the wall with my parents' room.

I remember mom pounding on the bathroom door, calling to me and trying to answer her, but no noise was escaping my mouth. Hearing the sweet sound of her picking the lock, then the fear in her voice as she yelled "Ron, call 911, Chad, come help me get your sister out of the tub she's having a stroke".

Corey was still out, but at some point, Chad had come home. He didn't hesitate at mom's request to haul me out of the tub and to the living room floor all wrapped up in my bathrobe and towels. I did the math and realized that there were probably going to be male paramedics, and I tried so hard to put my robe on.

The next thing I remember was being on the gurney rolling out to the ambulance. I saw a set of headlights coming down the driveway, and then, as they loaded me into the ambulance, I passed back out.

Flash forward a few months and I was back at the learning center. I ran into one of Corey's best friends, Terra, who was driving him home that night. It was her headlights I saw coming down the drive as they were loading me up. She said that Corey's first spoken thought as he realized that the ambulance was at our house and not the nursing home, was that it was for one of my paternal grandparents who lived in the basement. They saw the gurney come out of the upstairs, and he thought it was my dad. Then, they were close enough to see my long black hair falling off the side of the gurney.

Terra said Corey freaked out. Saying that he was so mean to me and that he shouldn't be and what if it was bad. She said he cried. 

I sit here now, eighteen years and a day removed from that horrible night. My brothers and I may not talk much, but I know that they love me. That night was the last time I remember all my family being together, fighting for the same goal.

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