I don’t do well in summer. Father’s Day usually starts my doldrums. My son was born on July 4, 1985. My husband broke his neck three years later on July 8, 1988 and died 32 days later on August 10, 1988. His birthday was August 21, and our wedding anniversary was August 26.
I don’t start coming out of my horrible mood until after Labor Day and then the Jewish holidays, followed by the regular holidays, all centering on family, pretty much kick my ass until New Year’s, which is a bitch to spend alone. Valentine’s Day, my birthday in April and Mother’s Day in May are not good either. I’d say my one really good month is March; I don’t tend to get into much trouble in March except on St. Patrick’s Day, when Jameson’s and Harp can put me in a tailspin.
But July and August are definitely the worst months. I can still remember what happened each day in 1988. On this day, his heart stopped, on that day, they opened up his lungs and so on and so on until August 10. Then it is the myriad memories of funerals, eulogies, family and friends, and sitting shiva, during the hot, dry days of August.
This summer is particularly difficult. During my daughter’s cleaning frenzy on Mother’s Day in my house, in my room, I came across the notes and letters that I wrote to my husband while I was staying with him in the hospital. I thought they were locked away in a box in the closet t that had not been opened in 24 years but I found them in my nightstand drawer wrapped in a poem eulogizing my husband, written by one of our dearest friends. I should have put them aside but having glanced at them, I knew I must read every one after my daughter left. That was a rough night but I did not put the notes away.
I don’t know what made me decide to write about those 32 days, to use the notes as the spine of the story of Mitch’s injury, hospitalization and death. Maybe it’s because next year will be 25 years since he died, two and a half times the number of years we were married. Maybe I need to finally face those memories and put them to rest. Maybe because I sometimes get a little crazy in the summer. Maybe it’s because I am a writer and you have to write what you know. And I know his story must be told.
So, today I am writing that 24 years ago I was fighting with the administrators at Albany Medical Center, the regional trauma center, about transferring my paralyzed husband from Plattsburgh to their hospital, to the neurologists and orthopedists who were waiting to treat him. AMC was putting me off with excuses about lack of nurses and lack of beds. I was tired and starting to lose hope but my husband had slept through the night and that was enough for me to write that I thought the end of our trials might be near.
What was I thinking?