Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Things I've Forgotten

These are the things I've forgotten.

They are the things I don't think about when I look back, the things that don't ever burn or sting. They don't actually make me feel anything.

That's the beauty of forgetting. 

I don't remember the sound the pressure cuff made when I peeled it from my arm after the doctor left the room to arrange my transport into Boston. "Unfortunately, there's a mass on your brain," he had said, so there was not, I decided, any further need to watch my blood pressure or track my pulse or even for me to stay in the johnny. They already knew what was wrong with me. I don't remember getting dressed or brushing my hair or refreshing my lipstick before I started making phone calls. That piercing rip of the velcro from the cuff as I freed myself from the bed and took what little action, what little control I could...I don't remember that sound at all.

I forget the understanding that settled upon me in the ambulance ride from the small hospital to the big one. Stuck in rush hour and hockey playoff traffic, I forget that moment of realizing the EMT didn't know what to do with me. I forget how he got chatty, how he felt the need to fill the sad space that was the back of the rig with words about his daughter preparing for college. I forget how he asked again and again if I was too cold or too hot. I forget how I wanted to put my hand on his arm and tell him that it was okay, that silence didn't scare me. That I needed the calm and the quiet to catch my breath in preparation for what was next. I forget how he eventually grew still and the gratitude I felt for it as I waited to be delivered to my fate. I forget that his mustache was reddish blonde and that the driver was young. I forget how I made a joke to that young driver as they lowered the gurney out of the ambulance. I made him laugh. I forget the look in his eyes at that moment, in the second after he laughed, the look that fell just shy of pity but not quite shy enough. I forget how that look chilled me. 

I don't remember the moment,a few hours later, when the nurse gave me a steroid shot. I don't recall the terror I felt as I bolted upright. Something was wrong; my chest was buring, every pore of my skin alive and prickling and stabbing. I don't remember the way it felt like tiny shards of glass piercing my skin, from my scalp to the roof of my mouth to my legs and my feet and I tried to say as much but all I could do was grab my friend's hand and gasp, "Shards of glass!" I don't remember how the nurse moved down to my ankles and grabbed them, holding them tight. I don't remember the way he looked at me, steady and sure, and told me I was okay, that sometimes this happens and that it would spread through my entire body but it would be over in about a minute. I don't remember that the way he held my feet grounded me in that moment or that, when he told me it was almost over, I believed him. I don't remember it at all.

I have forgotten the minutes and days and years that hung in the air when the neurosurgeon on call that night asked me, "What year is it?" I forget the work of trying to answer. I forget the "19-" that came to my lips. I forget the thought, "Wait...wait...not 19...wait." I forget the blackboard I saw in my mind that said, "20-" and how I couldn't figure out what came next. I forget the way he told me that it was alright. I forget the realization that I hadn't been able to answer, that it wasn't alright. I forget that I cried in that moment, the moment I knew this was all really happening.

I don't remember it at all, really.

I don't recall the fear that weaved in and out of those days.

I don't recall the lists and plans I made in preparation for potentially leaving my children motherless. I don't recall kissing them good-bye. I don't recall the feeling in my chest in that moment, a feeling exactly the same as the first time I touched them as newborns. I don't recall thinking that this was a delicious secret, how the intensity of love is the same at the end as in the beginning and I don't remember that I thought that was beautiful and gracious.

I don't recall the night before surgery, alone in the dark of my bedroom, lying awake staring at the ceiling and making my peace with the possibility that I would die the next day. I don't recall feeling at the same time that I had never been so sure of anything as I was right then that I was strong and ready to do anything I  needed to do to get back to the little boys I loved so much.

I don't remember these things. To remember them would be to dredge up the pain and beauty and clarity and fear and pain and love and grace and strength and pain and pain and pain.

These are the things I'll fight to forget.

These are the things I've already forgotten.