When I find myself feeling particularly sorry for myself, which was the case on Friday afternoon, something always smacks me in the face to remind me how fucking fortunate I am to be alive and well and fully capable of surviving whatever miniscule bull-shit I have to get through.
I got a call late Friday night from my friend Bret. Bret and I have been trying, perhaps in futile, to hold on to our almost 12 year friendship. We are in very different places in life. We may not always be able to understand one another or relate to the trials and tribulations of the other, but the one thing we can count on – when it matters, we are there.
Like when she saved my ass my first week at the new job when Jack decided he was violently ill and I didn’t have the guts to call in sick. She sweetly came to our rescue so Andy could get a few hours of sleep and I could not worry that my already-selfish career change was already making me a bad mother and wife.
Or on Friday night, when the phone rang at 10:30p and I thought ‘she wouldn’t call right now unless it was important’. I was glad I answered and didn’t just choose myself and my deep desire for sleep over her call. She needed me and I was there. 40 minutes later I was hugging her in an empty apartment in Boulder listening to her soft sniffles and cries.
She had gone to a movie a few blocks away from said empty apartment and as she was leaving she recognized an old classmate across the street. They waved at one another and as he made his way across to talk to her, a drunk driver came around the corner and she watched in horror as he flew up over the car. She ran to him and watched him die…..
By the time she made the call to me she had already talked to a victim’s advocate and her parents, but I knew she wouldn’t call me if she just needed to relay the story to someone else. Once she finished the story and kept saying ‘I just can’t stop seeing it in my head…I don’t know what to do?’. I looked at Andy and my Mother-in-Law rocking Jack in the living room and said ‘give me a few minutes and I will be on my way’.
I don’t have many friends that are as geographically close to me as Bret. If any of my other ladies had called to tell me something like this happened to them I would be absolutely helpless. And even though the moment I hung up the phone I thought of ‘great…you’re going there…and then what are you going to do?….you have no idea what to do here do you?’ – it still just felt better to be able to do that teeny thing.
Sure maybe all I can offer is hugs from myself and a sleepy toddler who insisted he was coming along and a bag of sour gummy worms….you should always have some sour gummy worms in your cupboard for just such an emergency – but it felt like something.
I arrived with no idea what to say, or do. I brought a pillow and a toddler blanket (Note to self: grab a full-sized blanket) and then tried to decide if it was better to get her to talk more about it, or to distract her….I still don’t know the answer to that.
I know who she wanted – the same person I would have wanted – her mother. She called again shortly after I had arrived to check-in on Bret and wanted to speak to me. She thanked me incessantly and then scared the bejesus out of me by saying ‘if you see anything questionable, she has contacts for people to call’….um what?….I got off the phone and said ‘Bret, your mom told me to look for anything questionable….what would that be?”. She then told me that chest pains were a common after effect of trauma….awesome! Not 5 minutes later Bret was like ‘maybe you should just go home, I think I am fine now’….um CHEST PAINS? Who will watch for those if I go home?
Plus I was so beat – I decided that we should lay down and see if she could sleep. I asked her about her week and we talked about Sam (her horse)….obviously I decided to go with the avoiding the topic tactic. We both nodded off. The three of us on an air mattress* didn’t exactly go so well. Jack decided air mattress sleeping was not for him and woke up crying at about 2am. I hushed him back to sleep until 3:30a when he again decided Bret had gotten too much rest for one 4 hour period. I decided I was doing more harm than good at that point.
I told her I would go, that the victim’s advocate probably never said ‘you should probably try to get the least amount of sleep you can tonight…perhaps sleep with a two-year-old?’. I had rested enough to make it back home and Bret was actually able to get to sleep so it seemed like that is what I should leave her to do. So I packed up and headed home.
In hindsight I should have left him at the house and trusted that Jack might have cried for a few minutes, but that Andy and his mom would have handled it. But at the time, I wasn’t all there. And I wasn’t sure what the plan would be. I did offer to bring her back to our house for the night, but she seemed to want to be close to Boulder and keep her plans to go riding the next morning.
I did think there is nothing better than baby hugs when you are sad and I knew Jack would cheer her up, which he did when he got his second wind after we arrived and decided to run and roll and laugh through the apartment. He opened the cabinets and said “Bret! There’s a spider in here!”…which of course there wasn’t. And also strangely he decided that Bret would be the one to bring out the potty training in him. “I have to go to the bathroom!” and the little stinker peed on the regular toilet for her. Every time I ask him or put him on the pot lately – no dice! So he did do some good…I do just feel bad about the sleep portion of the evening.
We checked in with each other the rest of the weekend. She felt better the next day and even better by Sunday. I am sure it is not something you easily get over and it is unfortunate that it takes something like this to make me realize I am an idiot for ever complaining about my own absolutely privileged life…..all I can think is that poor man’s parents. Reality can punch you in the face when you start feeling too sorry for yourself. So let’s all take the majority of our day to feel grateful for what we have because just a few minutes of gratefulness doesn’t seem adequate.
*Bret is moving into a new place the first of the month, so is semi-squatting at a friend’s place that’s on the market until she can move in. Thus the empty apartment and air mattress. Just in case you were curious.