That mother’s day, my ex-husband dropped off our girls with me for the day, and we stayed with my friend Misty. Maybe 20 minutes later my grandfather called to tell me that grandma was being taken to the hospital by ambulance and wanted to know if I wanted to go with. I said “No, I just got the girls, and I need to spend time with them, please keep me updated.” He hung up, and we went on about our evening. I remember feeling guilty that I didn’t go to the hospital and justifying it by saying she’s always in the hospital, she’ll be fine this time too. I’d just seen her earlier in the day, and she seemed fine other than the pain she was in from the most recent surgery on her knee. While it was healed, and she was up and about again; there was still some swelling and a little bit of infection that she was on medicine for.
I didn’t know anything about the condition in which she’d been taken to the hospital in, and I had assumed it was for pain management of her knee, or maybe a dizzy spell. It seemed like she had those pretty often, and I wasn’t alarmed. My grandfather was as calm and collected as he always was, and so I didn’t raise an eyebrow at his call. He always called if something was going on with her because he knew I’d want to be aware. Later that evening my ex-husband picked up the girls and Misty, and I settled in for a movie and a drink before bed. Little did I know, I’d wake to one of the greatest never-ending nightmares yet.
That next morning, Misty woke me up frantically with tears in her eyes. I’m not a morning person and struggled to understand what she was saying other than “Wake up mama, you need to wake up, grandma died this morning.” In disbelief, I asked her to repeat what she said, and she told me again that my grandmother had passed away that morning. I looked at her and said “Shut the fuck up, that’s impossible, she’s just in the hospital. I’m sure she’s fine.” Several minutes later, I received a call from my ex-husband, which I assumed was to arrange when he’d bring the girls for the day. I answered, and he said “Hey honey, are you okay?” I said, “I’m fine, when are you bringing the girls over?” There was a brief pause, and a sigh on his end before he asked “ I take it you haven’t talked to your grandfather yet?” I say “No, why? Is grandma home now?” He said, “No, I don’t know how to tell you this, but she’s gone Paula, she passed last night.” I hung up the phone without even saying goodbye.
I sat there, still struggling to comprehend what was going on as if I were in a dream that didn’t make any sense at all. My cell phone rang, and it was my grandma’s number. I answered “Hey grandma, all of these crazy fuckers are telling me you passed away, but I knew better. How are you feeling?” I heard my grandpa clear his throat, and my heart sank to depths I’d not felt since I was told that my nanny had passed as a young girl. All I heard was “Paula, your Grandma isn’t with us anymore, I just wanted to get in touch with you, so you didn’t find out from someone else first. I didn’t want to leave it in a voicemail.” My heart started pounding, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe, I felt as if I could vomit and the room was spinning. All I was able to muster was “Oh”, and I can still remember the sound of my phone hitting the floor as if it were a gavel of a judge sentencing me to death.
Sitting there silently, I looked at Misty and said “I know this is your house, but could you leave for a little while, I need to be alone.” With that she gave me a hug, kissed me on the forehead and said “Sure mama, I’ll go get us some coffees or something, call me if you need anything. As soon as the door closed, tears streamed down my face, as I sat there in disbelief and a black rage, seeing shades of red I’d never experienced before. At some point, I got all kinds of violent because when I came back around to reality I’d seen that I had destroyed the entire apartment. When Misty returned, she didn’t say anything as I tried pitifully to apologize for what I had just done. She just knelt beside me and let me collapse into her arms. I wailed like a newborn who’d just come out of its mother’s womb into the harsh noise and cold of the world outside of its previous safe haven. She rocked me and said “it’s okay, it’s just stuff.” We must have sat there like that for an hour.
I was no stronger than an infant. Every ounce of energy was drained from my bones; I had no will or desire to keep on keeping on. I was broken into a million pieces, which if not for Misty would have shattered into dust had she not been there to catch me. My brother was still in prison, and for me to lean on my ex-seemed ridiculous though he was there to be as supportive as he could be. We were thankful that, for the most part, our children didn’t know what was happening well enough to comprehend it to the full extent.
For a period, some of my closest friends babysat me while I drank myself to sleep. Sometimes I would get a hold of pot, and smoke an entire blunt to myself until I’d be about ready to pass out, then go home and just crash where I landed. While few knew of the existing battle, even fewer knew just how much I turned to the bottle during this period. Fewer still knew that I was cutting the fuck out of myself to feel something other than a broken heart. Nothing was said. It was just understood that I was fragile, volatile, and ready to run. Some tried to keep me from going for as long as possible so that they knew I was safe, but there was no stopping me. I ran again, just like I always did when things got tough. I had an intoxicated gypsy soul.