by Jennifer Dryden
It’s in the midst of the morning where you feel the most free. You blink heavily a couple times, squint to force your eyes to stay open – the light invading your favorite kind of darkness – and then you lie there blissfully unaware. You inch yourself a few butt lengths down into your covers, throw a leg out of the covers and stretch both arms up and both feet down, just like in ballet class when you were a kid. You let your muscles relax and cuddle up with the blankets that protect you from the harsh cold awaiting for you once the world reunites with consciousness. You close your eyes again to remember the dizziness of falling to sleep and hope it might come again for just another five minutes. You have nowhere to be.
You fade in and out until your phone buzzes from a text message; you grudgingly roll over onto your side and reach out. Your hand grasps the bright yellow case that is now blinking on and off with a missed call message. You shame yourself for keeping the notifications the same sound and place your finger on the phone icon in the middle of your blackened screen. It’s been sleeping all night too. It goes to sleep by itself, but usually will ring when a call comes so you’re confused. You expected to hear from an office, verifying an appointment later this week. It’s assumed now too.
Missed Call: Mom
You’re awake and reality hits you. Her heart. Your fingers can’t unlock the code fast enough and you’re all of a sudden out of breath from sitting up so fast in bed. The blood rushes to your head, resulting in the blacked out vision. It could be nothing. You blink repeatedly and make yourself breathe like they taught you during health class to prevent hyperventilation. You press on the missed call and it brings up the time: 9:00. Last night. A sigh of relief runs through your veins as you remember you called her back at 9:10 after you realized you’d missed the initial call, heart pumping just as hard as now. The notification was only an old one you forgot to dismiss with a swipe of your finger.
You lie back down to remember what it felt like five minutes ago – the blissful false reality of waking. It’s gone. The buzz was the first reminder of your worry for the woman who created you, who has raised you – for the most part single-handedly – and who inspired the career to which you dedicate your life. She calculates how to cook two different dishes in the oven at the same time and to have them equally perfect at the same time. You still don’t know how she does all the things she does. She is a wonder woman with a big heart… just a heart that has some damage.
So the moment between bliss and the blunt first moment of reality, you remember that last part. The doctors found a “little abnormality” next to the hole they repaired years and years ago. One open-heart surgery later – more specifically: break her ribs, open her up, stop her heart, and fix it, then start her heart again with fingers crossed – and she is better, just will never be 100 percent, well, ever. That thought trickles in and out sometimes, but never gets much thought because of her good reports from the cardiologists every year.
“Yup, the repair is holding up just fine,” she says each time. But not this time, not this year. This time was different, and you weren’t ready for it. The thought is just too hard to imagine. You’re not ready to face the reality, you like your blissful ignorance of what the future might hold. It’s like that moment at the beginning of the day when you wake up, squint into the light, and stretch, bracing yourself for whatever the next fifteen awake hours hold. But after your dreams fade into just that, your gut twists and your heart burns tears up to your eyes, and you remember.
Note: My mom ended up having an angiogram, which came out clear. Praise God. I wrote the above a couple weeks before the appointment. I think every child who has a parent who faces a health issue can relate, which was my purpose in writing.