So Sandy drove us from our home by the beach. I'm happy to say our apartment was unharmed and life is slowly returning to normal for us after being displaced for ten days. It was quite a ride and the landscape has changed in ways I couldn't have foreseen. Though we came through it all unscathed, I still feel like I've got some kind of post traumatic stress going on and we were hardly experienced the storm itself. It's the stories of others, the photos of so many places I loved, the shock of seeing the Mantoloking Bridge, a bridge that connected me to my Mom's house under water. Seeing that roadway severed is like cutting an artery off between me and her.
I was prepared to ride out the storm with the girls alone. This plan started to fall flat when I realized my next door neighbor was vacating and leaving us on our own. On Sunday, C came down and gently urged us to come to his place in Manhattan. I thought it weird for all of us to be staying under one roof, especially now that he's got a hot young girlfriend but he said it wouldn't be weird and I'm happy to say it wasn't. We drove back to his place on Sunday and functioned pretty well, even surviving the power outage Monday night with fun stories, candlelight and an early bedtime.
Tuesday saw things a little tenser. The power still hadn't returned and C was getting antsy. Brooklyn had power and I retain a small room there. C's brother lives there and he decided to go there. They only problem was getting there with no subways running and cabs a hotter commodity than they've ever been. We did eventually get a cab to take us to Williamsburg where my friends Melissa and Tim waited with open arms. C got a ride to his brothers and the girls and I embarked on our Brooklyn adventure with plenty of fine meals and fun and Melissa's.
The lack of power in Manhattan tunnel closings prevented us from returning to our area until the following weekend. The facility my mother is in lost phone service and I went out of my mind through the week wondering how she was. A friend was finally able to stop by on Thursday and gave me an emergency number. A nurse happily told me she was actually sitting up in a chair and had done fairly well that day. She'd not been in great shape over the weekend so I felt thrillingly hopeful to hear she'd been sitting up in a chair.
We came home to find our place in good shape but plenty of streets a mess. We took a long walk through town and along the beach to survey the damage. The boardwalk had been completely ripped from the foundation like it had never existed. Huge pieces of the boardwalk were everywhere. Memorial benches were stacked up in various places in varying states of ruin. I planned to get a memorial bench for my Mom for this boardwalk. Now this doesn't seem like such a good idea.
After decided that our home, while undamaged, was too cold to stay in with no electricity and heat, I packed the girls up again to head to my father's. On the way to his place, we stopped by to see my Mom. The Steeler game was on the TV but my mother was gyrating and grimacing in pain. Elena had one meltdown after another, eventually pooping in her pants. I'd not seen my mother for a week and in this moment, I was very frustrated with my kids for not allowing me some time with Mom. Finally, I stuck them in the hallway and the nurses chimed in with lollipops and paper and colored markers. I sat and held mom's hand but there wasn't much I could do. She was obviously in pain and couldn't even feign much interest when I told her about all the damage; about the friend currently staying in her house because she got flooded from her home, about the decimation of Sea Bright and Mantoloking, about the roller coaster in Seaside that was now lying in the Ocean.
She asked me to bring her a newspaper when I came back. I nodded and said I would. I did bring that paper a few days later but by this point, she was too out of it to even look at it.
My mother was in pain that night but she was still my mother. The following day, after a restless night on an air mattress at my father's, I signed her over to in-hospice care. The day after that the nurse told me Mom would not open her eyes again but the nurse was wrong. That night she opened her eyes and she nodded and communicated some what with us.
The following day was my birthday. I couldn't spend as much time with her as I wanted because of an incoming snow storm but it may have been the last day I spent with my mother as my mother. She couldn't really talk much but we could communicate with nods and gestures. I climbed onto the bed with her and she hugged me with her one good arm. Her left arm just drooped there, suddenly useless for reasons unknown.
A foot of snow kept me at my father's the following day longer than I wanted but we eventually made it out and came home to find that after ten days we had electricity. My babysitter met us at our place and I dropped Eliza off at dance (her first foray into her old life in close to two weeks as school was cancelled) and I rushed off to see Mom. Mom muttered and gyrated a lot, seemingly frustrated with her body's limitations. I couldn't understand most of what she said. She kept rambling about her salvation. This is not a word she used much in her life. I finally had to head home, to get some groceries for my family and settle in to my first night in my bed in close to two weeks.
Friday, my mom was awake and alert but not my mom. She kept muttering about her mom, her sister, how she had to get up and do her practice. She had to do the dishes and go down the steps. I thought she might be back in the house she grew up in with my grandparents but I really can't be sure. She was visibly uncomfortable and seemed frustrated by the fact that I couldn't help her. I didn't think she knew who I was but at one point, she asked that her diaper be changed and said she didn't want "lisa in the room." So she did know me and tears came to my eyes.
I came home that evening, made dinner for my kids and then headed back. Mom was still agitated so they gave her more drugs. The drugs seemed to work and she conked out. But Saturday, the day they finally restored power to the area around her facilty, Mom's eyes didn't open. She moved around a bit, grumbling like she was trying to wake up but nothing happened. My Aunt Carm, my mother's sister, finally came after months of not bothering and threw a fit because she didn't know how bad it was. I felt like telling her pancreatic cancer is a horrible thing and she missed opportunities to see Mom left and right but there's no point in trying to deal with Mom's crazy sister. She came, she saw, she ran out in tears I'm sure never to return again. I can't even feel sorry for her because I'm way too busy feeling sorry for myself.
Tonight I sat there holding my Mom's hand, listening to her grunt. I tried to drip water into her mouth but she closed her mouth tightly. I talk to her and I think she hears me but honestly, it doesn't matter. It doesn't seem to be comforting to her. Sometimes touching her, rubbing her head or holding her hand seems to soothe her but often it seems to just agitate her.
The girls finally go back to school tomorrow. A guy I work with shot himself yesterday and the memorial is up in North Jersey on Tuesday. I'm supposed to return to work on Thursday but I just don't know how that's going to happen. My girls keep me going but at the same time, I feel myself unraveling. The train that connected my home to New York sustained serious damage so there's another artery that's been cut.
I look at that picture of that roller coaster in the Atlantic and I think, that's me. I don't belong here, I shouldn't be here and yet here I am, just bobbing above the surface, waiting for some one or something to take me to wear I belong.