Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seven Millimeters: Life Interrupted

I have been working on biography/memoir with my family. All of whom have very keen eyes and great memories of an event which changed our lives eight days after 9-11-01. It's not an easy piece to write, and yet, I feel the need to finish what I've started. It is called, "Seven Millimeters: Life Interrupted."  This is a small excerpt from the memoir. Please let me know what you think about it.

Seven Millimeters: Life Interrupted

I don’t even know how fast I walked to the MICU. The hard floors were killing my feet and the distance, thereafter; didn’t faze me until later. I found my Mother in a single room, hooked up to a heart monitor. A small tube was in her mouth, covered by an oxygen mask. There were tiny sprays of mist coming through the opening near her nose. She was on a respirator and unconscious. Mom’s eyes were slightly opened, but there was no movement (REM) to indicate she was dreaming. She didn’t respond to my touch or to my voice. Her hands were like ice. I could see her chest moving, up and down slowly, but it wasn’t on her own. I touched her face lightly. She still didn’t respond. Mom’s head was cradled on a single pillow … no movement … just slow and labored breathing aided by a machine.

Mom was supposed to be sitting in a comfortable chair waiting for me to pick her up. Instead, she lay helpless, comatose and unaware of my presence. Within a few minutes, Nurse Clare (not her real name) appeared with a new IV pouch. The substance was clear and had Mom’s name on it…Helen C. Platt, the date and time which was inscribed by the nurse, and a bar code underneath. The nurse scanned the tag and removed the used pouch from the IV pole and replaced it with the new one. Nurse Clare checked Mom’s pulse and then the levels of her oxygen. She gave me a small glance after writing the data on  the notepad she kept in her pocket and then walked out. She knew I had questions, but her eyes gave way to silence on her part. She hesitated for a moment at the door, looked at me sympathetically and then proceeded to leave the room.

Minutes began to slowly drag by the time a doctor entered my Mother’s new domicile. From the looks of things, she would be here for a while. There was no doubt of that. Doctor Theo (not his real name) indicated that my Mother suffered a puncture and tear of the atrial wall of her heart. “A puncture … a tear of the atrial wall.” That was mild compared to what I was told next. “Pericardial tamponade … blood fills the sac surrounding the heart… can squeeze the heart …causing cardiac failure, otherwise known as congestive heart failure.” That was a lot for me to take in at once. “Tamponade.” Saying the word didn’t make it sound any better nor was it easier to absorb. Seeing my Mother in that condition wasn’t a cakewalk either. How could my Mother survive  after such trauma? They kept saying that she was stable but critical. She was stable… but … critical. My God, was there no end to Mom’s suffering? Hadn’t she suffered enough? I asked questions and received answers of uncertainty. Mom's life had been interrupted by someone who didn't think ... about her.

After leaving Mom in her room, I went to the chapel. I don’t even know how I got there. I just found myself standing in the chapel, looking at the cross and all the candles flickering for the many prayers for the patients in this hospital. I felt numb and my mind was spent. I couldn’t think about the future. I could only remember how I found my Mother. I heard a loud scream breakthrough my thoughts and suddenly realized it was me … screaming. I fell to my knees in the middle of the chapel and there was no one there for me and my grief. I spent time in the hospital chapel every day after that, sometimes trying to gain or regain some strength in my faith in God that Mom would survive all this. I was scared. I had to be strong, not just at home, but at work as well.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

About "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut"

     "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut" is a story about love, loss, disappointment and fulfillment. Julie Douglas, the main character faces all of these feats everyday since the passing of her husband of thirteen years. She knows that her future has changed and wonders: How she will bounce back after loosing her man and will she ever love again? We all have questions of that nature whether it is death that separates us from our loved ones or divorce. It's hard for a woman to step outside of the protective shell of marriage and start all over again. The matter of dating has changed over the years. Men and women treat each other differently. There seems to be new rules between men and women,  which predetermines whether the man or the woman will be accepted by their friends and/or family of the interested party. So, Julie makes decisions of which will affect change for both her daughter and for herself. She's not into playing games, but she learns quickly how people perceived her. She must stay strong for her only child: Alexis. Her sacrifices are great, even in her zest for a complete life and maybe in time to have a great love.

      When I wrote "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut," I was going through many of same emotions, trying to put my life back together after my husband passed away. I had just finished writing the story, "Forever Mine," in 1994, and then buried my partner for life that same year. It was a hard time, raising my daughter on my own and trying to make sense of each day we spent without our anchor. My daughter and I traveled north to Niagara Falls and then to Canada, more so to do the things we had planned to do as a family before illness struck. We used that time to heal. After a year of quiet solitude, a good friend from work invited me out. I learned then that my husband was right about me. I had led a very sheltered life. I had been protected most of my life, even with him. He would say that I was book smart ... not street. I used to laugh when he made that statement. However, it became a rude awakening for me while I faced the hardships of dating, dealing with the wagging tongues and the well wishers, who really didn't wish me well. Then, there were those would cared too much. So, I took many of my experiences and allowed my mind to flow where I felt life should have been channeled, whether it was a mistake or not. It felt good to write it down. Thanks to my family, who encouraged me and my writing instructor for Memoir Writing Concepts, "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut" was written. Although, she stated that I should have written it in memoir: first person, writing it in third person just seemed right. It gave me closure and allowed me to move forward. Everyone of us has a story to tell. We write, using our experiences as a guide. Like Julie, I dared to dream I had a future.

      The main characters in "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut" are Julie Douglas and her daughter Alexis, Gena: Julie's sister, Claire and William Bennett: Julie's parents, Eva: mother-in-law, Kacy and Glen: social and work friends, Marcus: potential suitor and Steve: a love from Julie's past. I know it a long list, but they all come in contact with Julie and they have a very subtle impact on the decisions she makes. In the passage that follows, you will see the beginning of her struggle.

Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut

          Julie stood in front of her family at the Douglas Family reunion in Covington, Ohio, staring into the faces of relatives she barely knew. Julie was an independent, but lonely woman after her husband, Chandler, had passed away nearly three years ago. She had been widowed quite young and many of her relatives felt she should become part of the permanent widows pool. Even her mother-in-law, Eva, didn’t want her son’s memory to be shadowed by a sordid affair with another man nor did she want her daughter-in-law to find love again. It was hard on Julie to remain the person she was, strong, amiable and dedicated to her work.
       Today, she announced that she wouldn’t make it to the next reunion. Furthermore, she was planning to take a cruise, travel the country and to spend lots of time with her only child, a daughter. So far, she had been told that they were expecting her child to be with the family on all the holidays thereafter. It left nothing for Julie to do but come and sit, watch the gifts being passed over her, while she was expected to shower the family with expensive trinkets and things. As it was, the women spent more time talking about her, saying things that were reminiscence of Julie flirting with the menfolk, when it was the men who had tried everything they could to spend time with her. She had grown tired of it all.
       On the last visit, her sister-in-law Lydia, asked with a mark of sarcasm, “So sister dear, when are you planning to get married? I know the men have been knocking on your door since my brother died.” It was a blunt question. However, Lydia was intent on asking more questions to see if Julie was involved with someone…somehow. But, all probing questions were brushed aside. Julie refused to comment, mainly because she hadn’t found anyone worth her time. Plus she knew that these questions were a way of sullying the love she shared with Chandler. It was heartbreaking knowing that they didn’t approve of her from the start. Maybe, it was because they didn’t have a hand in selecting his bride, like they wanted to. So, the in-law syndrome began the moment they heard about Julie’s and Chandler’s elopement.
       Yet, here in the presence of Chandler’s family and friends she finally disclosed her desire to move on with her life. “I know you think I’m being selfish, but…I must live my own life, not the one you have planned for me,” she stated carefully.
     “She’s only playing.” Marshall laughed, causing the rest to do the same.
     “Besides, dear, what will you do?" Eva asked coolly. "You can’t possibly think that you can raise my grandchild without my guidance.”
      Julie has made the decision to raise Alexis on her own. She plans to leave Covington so that she won't be under the scrutiny of her in-laws. As you can see, she has her hands full with Chandler's family who wants to dominate the child and to keep Julie in black.

    "Not Every Closed Eye Is Shut" is Julie's journey. It shows the determination and the struggle of one woman, whose focus is to proctect and raise her own child. Julie realizes that her understanding of love, life and truth is not the same for those who try to possess her. Love is not supposed to hurt, as some might think. She wants what every woman wants and deserves: love, honor and trust , something she had and lost.That is ... until one man from her past wakes the passion in her heart, allowing her to feel free to love ... again.