“Mom’s tip jar” in the laundry room. Where I would humorously tip myself with all the stuff that ended up in everyone’s pockets before I put it in the laundry. I found about $27 in there, many lipsticks, lots of rocks, and assorted hair things. It had been pushed back behind some things for many years and I had forgotten about it.
Despite my best efforts, tears started streaming down my face.
Not 2 minutes later, in another closet I fled to avoid the remainder of the laundry room, I found the blanket that we brought Chad’s service dog Stanley, as a puppy, home from the airport in. Right under that was my son’s space themed crib sheets and his space themed twin bed sheets he slept on until he was 15 years old. He would make me wash them and put them right back on, there was no spare set for that boy, it was space-space-space and he’s off to college soon to do something space related.
That last set of sheets is when I 100% lost it. I Lost My Shit, trade marked and all. I hugged his space sheet set, tossed aside my glasses and sat on the stairs and sobbed. And I don’t mean cried, or regular sobbed. I mean body breaking, painful, cannot even fucking breathe, and I was very sure I would never survive pain this horribly deep.
It broke me.
Everyone has their limits. And honestly? My limit is higher than any person I know. But, I hit mine.
That pain was worse than when Chad died, worse than after the funeral when I felt stranded and alone. Now, all of my loss hit me at once: Chad, my son, my dog, Chad’s dog, my house, Chad’s caregiver. I had even started a new job only weeks before Chad died so absolutely nothing in my life was the same anymore. In a word: my entire life was gone. Just. Gone. In a few weeks time, my entire world turned upside down and everything fell out.
The enormity of that hit me all at once, on those stairs, hugging those sheets. I sobbed so long and hard that the entire sheet set was completely drenched wet. I have no idea how long I sat there. I have never before, and I hope to Christ, to never ever wail like that again. Loss this profound is unfathomable until it happens to you.
The best analogy I can think to describe how I have fundamentally broken and will not be the same ever again is of a piece of paper.
I used to be a piece of paper that had lots of writing on it, colorful and crazy and fun, many wonderful things were written on it, some not so great things, lots of drawings — it was full but had more space, that piece of paper. Looking at it made you smile. And the piece of paper that was me did have a few folds and wrinkles here in there, but for the most part, it was intact.
That night, May 21, 2018 is when the universe crumpled that piece of paper that is me up, wadded me into a very tight ball and discarded me like a piece of trash.
Slowly, I have managed since to untangle a little bit, to straighten myself out a tiny bit, and I am in the process of trying to be a regular readable, recognizable piece of paper again. But I feel so much worse than I ever did before. Before it was a mixture of numbness and sadness. Now it is real. Not surreal. Real-real. Too real. Devastatingly achingly real.
And even if some magic English butler found the piece of paper that is me, carefully flattened me out, steamed me, and pressed me with an iron back into a perfectly flat piece of paper …. this piece of paper will always be visibly and obviously wrinkled and damaged from what she has been through.
And in a cosmic twist straight from the most demented Disney movie imaginable, that night, May 21, 2018 is the eve of the 30th anniversary of Chad’s catastrophic spinal cord injury at age 19 that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down later that night at 2 am on May 22, 1988. So, on May 21, 2018 as I sat on those steps, 30 years ago, Chad was taking his very last steps on the earth for a few hours before ending up in a wheelchair for the remaining 29 years and 9 months of his life. I wonder how many times he relived that last night of walking in his head?
I wonder how many times I will relive that night that I broke in my head?