It’s times like this when I am reminded that I have absolutely no idea how my mom handled everything that was going on with my sister after she was hit by a car and nearly died (the first attempt). Just after the “accident,” her doctors didn’t know if she would survive. She was in the hospital for quite some time—my memory says two weeks, but I can’t be sure because I was just nine.
My mom was in Charlottesville with my sister at UVA hospital. Then my sister came home, finally. Her jaw had been broken, along with the rest of the bones in her face, so her mouth was wired shut so it could heal. Also broken or knocked out in the “accident” were several of her teeth. So there was a convenient hole to feed the giant syringe of blended food into her mouth.
I remember being interested in the goings on and the new process of eating. My sister was quiet (couldn’t really talk, what with the wires) and had a general way of sadness about her, and there I was, flitting around, excited my sister was home, sad she had to eat mushed food, and wanting to try her mushed food through a giant syringe.
My mom helped her with everything that Lisa needed help with. Slowly, she was able to do more things, but my most vivid memory is in the kitchen at our house on Tabscott Drive: brown floor, white, orange, and yellow wallpaper, phone hanging on the wall, brown table, goldenrod refrigerator, countertop that I would climb up on to reach out of reach things with a blender sitting on it.
After Lisa got out of the hospital, there were many, many doctor appointments. What different kinds of doctors? Not sure. I remember she went to talk to a therapist, she needed reconstructive surgeries (for years), her mouth and teeth and jaw and facial bones and nose and palate all needed to be fixed. She was probably on painkillers.
Her elbow, her heel, her skull.
Her pride, her wellbeing, her self-esteem.
And there was my mother, trying to repair or help repair. I know she did absolutely everything in her power. My dad was a mechanic, owned a VW repair shop in Fairfax, so he had to be at work Monday through Friday. He had long days. He would do anything to help my mom and sister. Part of that was to make money to pay for insurance and surgeries and medical appointments.
And then there was me. Just sort of washing around in the eddys and currents of elementary school life, then the long days of summer, then school again, swirling in the wake of Lisa’s attempted suicide, burying the memory that she had told me on the phone just before everything went to shit that she wanted to die.
People wanted to visit with my sister. I remember my best friend’s brother and Lisa dated briefly. He came by our house to see her some time after her accident and she didn’t want to see him. I can’t remember who had to break the news to him, if it was me or if I just witnessed it, but I remember the dream of Lisa and him getting married therefore making me and my bestie kind of sisters in law started to fade then.
When I feel overwhelmed with big things and little things and it all bunches in my shoulders and my neck and my head and all the things are banging around in there against my skull and making everything achey and sore and painful and I think of all the things I need to do, take care of, can’t do and I think
How the fuck did Ma do it?
My shit isn’t nearly as serious as hers was; she was putting her daughter back together while raising the other one, keeping the house together, dealing with the mountain of medical bills we must have had, and being a wife.
When all the stuff rains down on me and my head starts pounding and my jaw muscles are sore and tender from clenching and my neck and back and shoulders hurt and then my stomach starts up I think how did she do it?
*Not editing. Writing and posting.