Somewhat Damaged

Things got out of control so fast.

His work partner, who originally sent along the request to check on him, decided to drive over before he even heard anything back.  He arrived about 20 minutes after the police did, and then sat with me for the additional 20 mintues that followed before my husband arrived home.  His mother, and my father-in-law’s ex-wife, was about half an hour behind that.  By noon, the house was packed with a mix of his friends and family, and by 4pm, we’d started talking about the things we would inevitably need to figure out;  little more than 6 hours after he’d been found, half a dozen of us had already started tearing the house apart in search of important paperwork and belongings that would help us deal with the aftermath, like his will.

We drank heavily that night, because of course we did.  I cried on and off, but chalked it up to everything being so fresh and so jarring.  I didn’t think anything of it originally when sleep was hard to come by, even when I was dead tired, or of the fact that the scene just seemed to keep playing on repeat in my mind.  Grief was old hat to me, and I figured this was all part of the process.  It felt similar to what I went through with Brock.

However, over the next few days, things only got worse.  Crying increased, and I began to have more and more trouble staying even relatively stable.  The little sleep I was getting dwindled to almost nothing because I couldn’t seem to pass out unless I was too tired to function or considerably inebriated (or both)… and, when I did, I would wake up again a short while later and not be able to get back there.  I was also completely unable to handle being alone, even for small periods of time, and kept forcing my husband to stay with me until I was able to nod off as a result.  I started to feel that I was losing my grip on things.  I holed up in our apartment and avoided interacting with people because I didn’t want to admit that I was feeling troubled because I thought it was embarrassing.  I felt that, if I gave them distance, maybe they wouldn’t notice that I was falling apart at the seams.

By Friday, I had to come to terms with the fact that something was seriously wrong.  I kept almost dissolving into tears for absolutely no reason, no matter where I was and what I was doing, and I very nearly had a complete meltdown at Walmart.  Memories from Monday morning struck me so suddenly and vividly that I began to hyperventilate, and it took me nearly 5 minutes to regather my composure and keep going – and, even then, I was still shaky and anxious.  I ended up leaving the store in such a hurry that I forgot what I had gone there for in the first place.

Even then, I didn’t want to bring it up.  I was ashamed and embarrassed by how poorly I was coping, especially since it wasn’t really my loss to begin with.  I didn’t want to make things about me when it didn’t have much of anything to do with me.  I grew progressively frustrated with myself for letting my emotions mess with me when, logically, I could tell myself it really wasn’t a huge deal, but mentally I couldn’t come to terms with it.  Trying to convince myself that it wasn’t something that should have traumatized me just further stressed me out because, here it was, basically ruining my life anyway.  It seemed crazy to me that I had carried my first son for nine months, only to lose him when I was almost 41 weeks pregnant, went through an awful 3-day induction, and delivered him silently — and come out of that okay — but finding my father-in-law, having died peacefully in his sleep after 55 long, eventful years of life completely wrecked me.  I still wondered if it was just too fresh to come to terms with properly, or if I’d just run out of strength, and this just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  All I knew, in either case, was that I was all but despondent.

I resolved to give myself a few more days to figure things out, which was a bad idea, and I knew it.  As I have struggled with depression in the past, I know how it works when you should go to seek help with mental health issues: on the bad days, you wonder, “Why would I bother getting help?” and throw up excuses to let yourself stay miserable, and on the good ones, you feel that this might be a turning point where things will start to get better, so you put it off so you don’t have to go through all the trouble and/or admit that you need help.  Fortunately, my husband and mother-in-law – who had both noticed that I was not handling things well at all – had other plans.  On Sunday morning, he woke me to tell me that we were going to drop Nathan off at my mother-in-law’s for a few hours, and then we were going to go and see my doctor to talk about what I was going through.

We did exactly that.  We talked through what had happened over the last few days, about losing Brock, and about how I was handling things with Nathan.  I confided to her that we are not bonding terribly well, for some reason or another; so far, caring for him has been more stressful than gratifying, and I explained that, while I love him, I don’t like him (it’s the best way I could come up with to embody my feelings about him most of the time).  I left with a prescription for antidepressants, the number for a public health nurse, and the reassurance that I would be referred to counseling or psychiatric services as soon as she could find a connection.

So there we have it… apparently, I’m crazy now.  I wonder if I have been like this for a long time and not known it, or if I just snapped somewhere recently.  I even catch my husband treating me like I’m compromised sometimes, asking if I remembered to take my pills and coddling me in silly ways.  I would be more upset, I think, but, you know, antidepressants.  It’s only been three days and I already feel like I’ve lost the capacity for the crushing sadness I felt before – I still get sad, but not to the same degree.  I also don’t get as happy either, though… everything just feels muted.  It’s really strange.

Oh, and of course, I still don’t sleep well, and I still can’t stop thinking about the moment I found him.  Seems we still have a lot more work to do to fix me.

Life and Death

I was just becoming used to the typical daily routine of parenthood – at least, what it was for me for the time being.  My husband and I had finally nailed a schedule down that worked well for us.  While Nathan still isn’t on any kind of predictable schedule, we were finding a sort of rhythm and starting to find ways to get over some of the more awkward hurdles, like timing my pumps and making sure that my husband got a good, solid night’s sleep at the same time.

In this time, and with the sleepless nights that sometimes come with having a newborn, I was also starting to understand my father-in-law’s schedules.  Since we live in the basement, I could hear him going about his daily routine above us; I started to get a good idea about how he lived, and what he did and when.  He would get up every two hours throughout the night, basically like clockwork, to use the washroom.  Every day at 7, he’d get up (which would be announced by the sound of his dogs jumping off the bed) and start his day by going to the washroom, then going to fix breakfast and coffee.  Just before leaving for work at 8:20 each morning, he would turn on the radio in the kitchen to keep the dogs company, go sit on the front steps to put on his shoes, and leave through the front door.

Nathan is usually a fairly good sleeper throughout the night, but has been working through a regression the last few days. Where he’d normally go to sleep at 8 and wake at 11, 2 and 5 for feedings before starting his day around 7:30 or 8, last night he only slept from 11 to 1, then 4, before deciding he was up for the day.  During the 1 o’clock feeding, I heard my father-in-law use the washroom, as he always did.  Nothing unusual there.

I was preoccupied with Nathan being fussy for a long time, so it took until about 6 before I realized I hadn’t heard him get up in a while.  Even then, I figured he was just sleeping more deeply than usual, and I was busy with the baby.  Besides, it was too early to worry yet, but something nagged at me, even so early.  He was so brutally consistent in his routines that it was already odd to see them broken.

7 rolled around, Nathan was still awake and fussing, and he didn’t get up for work.  I began to wonder, but figured he had scheduled the day off and was sleeping in (but wondered why he hadn’t mentioned as much to us).  I finally got Nathan down around 7:30, and had a beautiful 40 minutes of sleep before he woke… again.  I was starting to get really perturbed by the lack of activity upstairs, but wondered if he’d woke, done his routine, and left early in the brief stint while I was asleep.

At 9:30 – Nathan still awake, but starting to seem drowsy – my husband called me and asked me to check on him because his partner said he’d never turned up to work.  When my father-in-law didn’t answer his phone, he asked my husband to check on him.  Since my husband was at work, he delegated that duty to me.  All my fears suddenly validated, I was all but certain I knew what had happened.

I knocked on his bedroom door and called his name several times.  No answer.  Finally, I announced my intention to enter, steeled myself and went inside.

He looked perfectly peaceful, like he had just fallen into a particularly deep sleep.  His dogs still laid dutifully on the bed next to him, showing no signs that they understood what had happened.

I bawled in a way that has become all too familiar to me since Brock died.  I shakily called 911 and they talked me through it the best they could.  They asked me to try and perform CPR, but I would need to get him onto a hard, flat surface to try.  When I touched his arm to make a cursory attempt to try to drag his 250+ lb frame out of bed, he was ice cold.  I recoiled and wailed louder, inconsolable to the woman trying to talk me through the process.

The police and EMTs arrived about 5 minutes later and pronounced him dead.  When the coroner arrived and assessed him at noon, he suspected he’d died 8-12 hours prior.

So, I discovered a dead body.  And, for the second time in slightly more than a year, I’ve had the displeasure of touching a dead person.

—–

He didn’t live well – smoked excessively, drank heavily and ate poorly – and we knew a bad outcome was all but inevitable, but we didn’t expect it so soon.  Not once, in the days leading up to his death, did he mention feeling strange at all (and he was always happy to find things to complain about).  We had no reason to suspect that he was getting ready to check out so soon.

We didn’t hang out often or talk too much (we are/were both rather introverted), but I spent a large chunk of his last evening with him.  It was perfectly routine for him.  He started drinking at 5, as he always did, had 6 beers, as he always did, watched a movie recorded on his PVR, as he always did, ate a late dinner, and was in bed by 10.  Nathan and I watched most of the movie with him, as I brought him upstairs with me while I put a shepherd’s pie in the oven so that my husband could have a nap.  It was a bad movie, called The Caller, and we had fun complaining about it.  We talked about normal shit during commercials, like what age Nathan would get interesting at, the fact I’d forgotten to get rent from the bank for him (and that I would do it tomorrow), and whether or not the dishwasher was full enough to run.

It is heartbreaking how many people I’ve spoken to today have been hurt by his loss, but also admitted that they fully saw it coming.  How sad it is to live in a way where people look on your death – at the young age of 55, no less – shrug, and say, “Well, he didn’t exactly take care of himself.”

 

Love yourselves.

 

 

 

I see another move in my immediate future, and my husband and I now also get to look forward to purging his house, settling his affairs, making funeral arrangements, and so on.  Forgive me if my infrequent writing slows even more.