One of the trips I went on was to Washington D.C. with my 8th graders for their class trip. I had been looking forward to going since the day I found out I was able to chaperone. When I received the dates for the trip I had mixed emotions. Within that timeframe held not one, but two dates that would be dear to my heart. May 17th, what would have been my one year anniversary and May 20th, the six month mark of my husband’s passing. I find it cruel that the dates align in that way. For the rest of my life I have to live with the fact that when there is a one year mark of a significant day in my life, there will also be a half year mark of another significant day right in the same week. Neither being dates that will ever bring me joy. That being said the trip to Washington D.C. turned out to be the best possible medicine for me that week. The distractions of traveling, sightseeing, and keeping 13-14 year olds out of trouble were just what I needed. Had I not gone those days would have been spent sulking in bed all day, which may have been understandable, maybe even acceptable, but instead I went out into the world and experienced life.
I am truly fortunate to be able to keep so busy and go do so many things, but my availability and lack of responsibilities comes at a high cost. With Father’s Day over the past weekend I found myself not thinking about how grateful I am to have my dad with me or even about how awful it must be to have been father who lost a son. The only thing on my mind was how Brady was robbed of the gift of having a child to call his own. The day I lost Brady I lost so much more than a husband.
While Brady and I were dating we would talk about our futures together, as many couples do. And as many girls do I would ask him about how many kids he wanted, what he would name them, all those sorts of things. I have always been more adamant about adopting rather than baring my own children, but Brady insisted that if we were to do one we should do the other as well. We were always so interested to see if we would end up having twins. Both Brady’s mom and my dad are identical twins. We also each have a set of cousins who are boy/girl twins. The odds appeared to be in our favor. For my entire life I remember thinking about how I would want to begin having kids as soon as I got married. I’ve said before Brady and I both came from large families. It’s something I’ve always wanted to continue to have by creating a large family of my own. However, creating a large family takes time, which puts me back at starting right away after marriage. When the day finally came I had changed my mind. I didn’t feel the need to start having kids right away. Instead I chose to be selfish and keep Brady all to myself for a while longer. I still wanted to have a lot of kids, but I just didn’t need them yet. What I needed was Brady.
A short five months later we received the news of Brady’s diagnosis. I quickly took on my role as the caregiver. A large part of being a caregiver, by default, is also being a host. I was there to host all visitors including doctors, nurses, specialists of all kinds, acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and of course relatives. It did not take long to feel the weight of a question on everyone’s mind and the elephant in the room; kids. It was almost taboo to talk about. People didn’t want to bring up the topic at the risk of breaking our spirits further or maybe they just thought it was rude or inappropriate. I didn’t completely mind though. If I truly wanted to discuss it with everyone I would have. It was something I had to talk about with Brady alone. Any time I brought it up was difficult for both of us.
As we began to get more and more information about just how serious Brady’s diagnosis was, we decided we needed to talk to the doctor about our options as far as fertility goes. Honestly, we were clueless on the subject. We weren’t sure who we needed to talk to or where we needed to go. After speaking with Brady’s oncologist she told us that we needed to contact a doctor at a local fertility practice. The people there informed us an appointment was needed to move forward. The objective of the appointment was to be able to store Brady’s goods (sperm) there for a couple of years until the time came when we would need it (I’m sure Brady is thrilled I’m putting this out there for all of you right now). All of this was much easier said than done.
Our first issue was that in order to begin the process Brady had to physically be at the fertility practice (for obvious reasons). Even though the reasons were obvious I remember feeling frustrated about the whole situation. I thought it was bullshit that there wasn’t any type of specialist that could just come straight to Brady at the hospital to help us get what we needed done, done. At the time we hadn’t been released from the hospital yet. We were still stuck at St. Francis Hospital making it impossible to even schedule an appointment. Our next issue were the hours of operation at the practice. They were open Monday-Friday and I believe only until 3:00pm or 4:00pm. When we finally got released from our first hospital trip it was during the weekend. This meant we had to wait a couple more days to even attempt anything. I managed to make an appointment for the following week, but it was a tricky task. It had to be scheduled around many other appointments, visitors, and most importantly was dependant on how Brady felt. I remember fighting my emotions when I called to reschedule that first appointment. Brady woke up feeling too ill to travel and it was nearly impossible for me to force him into doing anything he didn’t want to do. So reschedule I did. He didn’t feel perfect for the second attempt either, but managed agreeing to the trip anyway. I probably begged him to go not knowing when we would get another chance. Even simple trips were a hassle. Brady was in pain and on many medications causing him to be in and out of full consciousness. Simple tasks like walking from here to there tired him out quickly, and he had to have a giant oxygen tank attached to his side. I can’t say I was excited to get him into the car for the appointment because of the circumstances in which we had to go, but I was definitely pleased to finally get to a point that would make us both more comfortable in the end.
Tensions were high as we drove from the Eastside of town to the North. Our little trip felt like an hour long. I remember trying to talk about other things to keep his mind occupied in between asking him how he felt. Every time I broke too hard, turned too fast, or even hit a pebble in the road he was sure to let me know. I apologized each time as my anxiety grew about my driving. I really wasn’t driving erratically, Brady just noticed every little thing because he wasn’t feeling his best. Finally he had to tell me to just stop talking and drive normal (the brat). As we pulled into the parking lot Brady quickly informed me he didn’t feel well at all. I drove to the very back of the lot and pulled over next to some bushes. I helplessly watched as he opened the door and began to get sick out the side of my car. I’m sure he was humiliated on top of feeling awful. When all was done I asked if he could still attend the appointment. He responded by asking me what all would be required of him once we got inside. Since I wasn’t exactly sure I told him I would go in and ask for the details. We drove back up to the front of the building to park. While Brady sat in the car to gather himself I went inside to get the information we needed. I’m not normally an anxious person but I felt the anxiety begin to rush through my body as I walked down the hallway alone. After walking into the office I explained who I was and our situation. They went on to inform me, as I knew they would, about what would be required. Sparing you from nitty gritty details, Brady had to be physically present. I held my head in sorrow as I told them I would go out to the car to speak with my husband about the predicament.
I opened the door and climbed into the seat as I began to explain the details to Brady. He looked right at me with his exhausted wide eyes and said, “There’s no way I can do that right now.”
I assumed that would be his response, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear. I began to cry as I told him I didn’t think we would have another shot at this. Crying isn’t something that came from me often during his illness, but when it came to this particular topic, with just Brady and myself alone together… it occurred almost every time. Brady, trying to cheer me up as he always did, assured me that we would be able to try again one day, just not that day. I attempted to pull my broken-hearted self back together as I walked into the practice for a second time to update them on the newest information. They were waiting for me as I walked in. They, too, expected that Brady would not be able to come in that day. In their attempts to make things easier for us, I was given a second option. The workers handed me an “at home kit” as I’ll call it. A small plastic jar with simple instructions, get his goods in the jar and return it to the practice within an hour after doing so. It was enough to restore at least a tiny bit of my hope, for a moment anyway.
The task was virtually impossible for several factors. We’ll pretend that getting Brady’s goods into a jar was simple in and of itself. It wasn’t, but we’ll pretend for a second that the fact he felt like hell, had a breathing tube in, wasn’t eating, was barely drinking, and was on multiple medications wasn’t even a factor. Putting all of that aside the next combination of obstacles are what made it truly impossible. The practice was only open during select hours during weekdays and Brady and I were never left to be alone, ever. Brady and myself had someone else in our tiny little duplex at all hours of every day and night. People wanted to see him, to visit him, to be near him, to just love him and how could deny anyone of that? If there were a chance we were alone for a moment, which was mostly non-existent, it was during an hour or a day when the practice wasn’t even open. In all reality we only had 3 or maybe 4 available weekdays after the missed appointment before we were back in the hospital anyway. Once we were in for the second time there wasn’t really a way to make progress in the whole fertility thing. Besides that, if you’ve read my previous blog entries you would know that by this point we were quite literally being beat down with bad news after worse. Still, the topic continued to be in the back of my mind.
We were at a new hospital this time around, with new doctors, new nurses, and new surroundings. I brought up my concerns on the issue to our nurse practitioner and hospitalist. Again the answer I was really looking for is that they could have some specialist of some kind physically come to Brady to do their magic so that he wouldn’t have to do a thing at all. Apparently this doesn’t exist. The hope I had been holding on to still remained, but was fading as time went on. The day Brady’s team of doctors came in to tell us there was absolutely no medical options they could give him was by far the worst. It truly felt like the kind of nightmare you’re unable to awake from, because you’re forced to live it. After the doctors left, our parents left Brady and I to have some moments to ourselves. I couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the few moments we had to ourselves throughout that month. They are more cherished than most memories in my life. During the entire awful journey, Brady and I had asked all the doctors not to give us any sort of time frame on his life. Those were only guesses as far as we were concerned and we didn’t want to spend our moments counting down days on a calendar. We wanted to live them in bliss. However with the new information from the doctors I knew we were working with a limited timespan. In the midst of holding one another in the hospital bed I looked up at Brady and asked with water filled eyes, “Do you still want me to have your children?”
“Yes,” he responded.
I paused for a moment before the next question fell from my mouth, “Do you still want me to have your children even if you will never be able to see them?”
He looked at me with so much emotion filled in his beautiful eyes and said while nodding, “Yes.”
I immediately took both my hands to hold his face, pressed my forehead against his, and kissed his lips.
My brave, brave boy always filled my soul with more love than the entire world could have ever offered me. He had me so wrapped I even loved it when we argued (it made things more exciting). When I treated him like trash, he’d quickly step in to make me laugh away my reason for being angry to begin with. When I was sassy he would put me right back in my place. When I was sad he would always respond with something perfect to make me grin. He balanced every one of my emotions and every part of my being effortlessly. I often told him we were meant for each other because no one else would know how to handle me. I was more than spoiled to have had him in my life as long as I did. I knew what we had was too good to be true and I should have taken it less for granted when I had the chance.
After the bad news, we were still stuck in the hospital. All Brady wanted was to return home, but we were trapped until released. Keeping with Brady’s wishes I located the hospitalist to talk to her some more about our fertility options as I had done before. She was supposed to be getting some information for me that I had asked her about a few days prior. Not wanting to talk to her about the topic in front of others we stepped outside the hospital room where Brady’s mom, step dad Joe, and youngest sister were visiting. I re-explained to her my interest in freezing Brady’s goods for me to use at a later date. I can perfectly remember the puzzled look on her face as she said, “Oh… well I didn’t think that was something you would still be interested in considering he only has months to weeks left to live.”
There it was.
The only information I asked not to hear throughout the entire process.
It stung and it stung hard.
I could feel myself wanting to strangle her where we stood all while wanting to collapse onto the ground. I wanted Brady more than anything but couldn’t bare to face him. My body was fighting a full blown panic attack with every part of its being. I fought it with everything I had to walk back into Brady’s room and asked Joe to go on a walk with me. Everyone in the room knew something was wrong, but I continued to say I was fine and just needed to go on a walk. I tried to walk as far away as I could before the break down set in. And then I lost it. Right in the middle of some hospital hallway as people passed by, all because of some idiot doctor, I lost it. I had been holding all of the information, emotions, thoughts, and hopes together for 3 weeks and my body just couldn’t hold on any longer. I don’t even remember a thing I said as I stood there crying. I never knew what it felt like to have a broken heart break until that moment. I was frustrated, I was angry, I was sad. When I finally pulled myself back together I knew I had to obey Brady’s wishes and keep this information away from him and the people closest to him. He was going to live in bliss. To this day it is the biggest secret I have ever kept from him, hell it may have been the only secret I ever kept from him. I’m a sucker for honesty.
The next evening we were able to return home, for good this time. Six days later I had to say goodbye to my husband. Six. I didn’t get months, or weeks, or even a single week. I got six days. With my husband’s passing went my life as I knew it. Not only did I lose him, I lost our future. Our future celebrations, arguments, memories, laughs, struggles, successes, and experiences. I lost the ability to have his children. And in just one simple moment to another, I lost him.
As the weeks went by after his passing I remember wishing, hoping, even praying so deeply that there was some way, some how that Brady had mistakenly gotten me pregnant before we found out he was sick. I wanted it more than anything. I layed in bed sobbing the day I realized it was not going to happen. A child isn’t really the thing I wanted more than anything, it was Brady. It was always Brady. I thought that if I had least had his child to keep pushing me forward, I would still have a part of him with me. I still think that really. But such is life and instead I have been graced with infinite availability and an extreme lack of real responsibilities against my will. With that I will continue to live my life in a frivolous manner filled with travels and adventures until an alternative path presents itself.
I wish this could have been one of the stories you might read about in your books or see in the theaters. One that contained a disheartening tale with a silver lining. I can’t say that I have found my silver lining yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I do. Until then, I will remain as I am now… a childless widow in her twenties.