Today is your 51st birthday but before I can celebrate you, I have to tell you about this really terrible nightmare I had: I flew from Berlin to Maryland to be with you after your knee surgery and the next morning you passed away. There was no way that hours after I landed you could be gone so it had to be a terrible dream. It didn’t make any sense, you only had a simple procedure because your knee was hurting when you got in and out of your work truck or went up and down stairs. I remember telling you, it’s just knee surgery, everything will be fine. But it wasn’t fine.
We only had a few hours together before you were taken from me. You even sent me that text when I was on the way from the airport, “Just you and me” then all of a sudden it was just me. Since I was born, it had always been us two, doing everything together, so there’s no way you would leave me after only a few hours.
That morning on the way to your physical therapy appointment I was fussing at you about taking my car to the shop. That couldn’t have been our last moment together. We were supposed to go to the movies like we always did. We were supposed to go out to eat at our favorite restaurants, I even made a list in my phone so we didn’t miss anything. We were supposed to laugh and take photos and videos together. We were supposed to have more time.
I remember watching you out of my side mirror as you walked into the doctor’s office and saw the door close behind you. You didn’t have your crutches, you were barely limping, and I said to myself, “Look at her, she’s fine.” I knew you were coming out, it never crossed my mind that you never would.
I even went to get us coffee and breakfast sandwiches but when I ordered the sandwiches they only gave me one. I just figured since it took you so long to come out, it was good that it wasn’t sitting there getting cold. I would just get you one on the way back home.
I waited for you outside the doctor’s office for two hours. When I got too hot outside I went in to look for you. But you weren’t there. Something didn’t seem right. When I got my phone out of the car I saw grandma had called. Almost a dozen times. But still, I knew you were fine. I even said to myself, “She’s probably looking for mom, I’ll have her call when I find her.”
Instead she told me, “Your mom collapsed and she’s in the hospital.” I thought it was because you took your medicine and didn’t eat breakfast. That was my fault, I should’ve insisted on getting your sandwich before your appointment. When grandma, poppy, and I headed to the hospital to see you I began to panic because I called you and you didn’t answer. You always answered.
I let them to get out so they could be with and I parked the car. As soon as I found a spot I rushed in, I brought your coffee even though it had gotten cold because I knew you would still drink it. But instead of being with you, they were standing outside of a private room. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I knew that’s where they went to tell people the worst news of their lives.
When the doctor told us you were gone, a sound came out of me that I didn’t know I could make, it was the loudest I had ever screamed in my life. I couldn’t believe him. This had to be a terrible joke, a mistake, an accident. I came all that way to be with you, you couldn’t be gone. Even though I came there because you needed me, I needed you just as much.
Then they asked if we wanted to see you. I didn’t. Because if I didn’t see you then it wasn’t real. But I had to see to be sure. When it was time to go, my feet wouldn’t move. They slid across the floor as poppy pulled me closer to the door of your room.
As soon as I saw you I fell to the floor. So hard I had cuts on my knees. I couldn’t hear anything but my scream. I felt like a piece of me had been ripped out of my body. I felt robbed. I felt wronged. Someone took you from me and it wasn’t right.
This couldn’t be right. I knew that day would come but it wasn’t supposed to be that day. You were supposed to live long enough to walk me down the aisle when I got married, to play with your grandkids, to get your passport and come visit me in Berlin. Sometimes I thought you would outlive me because you were so young at heart.
Everyone you met knew how special you were, but no one knew that better than me. I may have left your womb almost 32 years ago but I was always apart of you and you continued to give me life. You never stopped being my protector, my greatest supporter, my biggest source of love. I depended on your daily nourishment like I depended on food to keep me going. We were never apart, no matter how many miles were between us.
You had always been my best friend, I could talk to you about anything and everything. In fact I did, I would call you every morning when I made breakfast or at night when I was leaving a bar. When I got off work, even though you had to be up early, you would sit on the phone with me until you I made it home safely. It was always the two of us looking out for and taking care of each other.
Everyday I sat alone and cried. Sometimes I cried when I wasn’t alone because I couldn’t help it. Whether my eyes were opened or closed I was back in that waiting room at the hospital. I relived that day over and over in my mind. It was like a movie that didn’t want to watch kept playing and I couldn’t turn it off. The shock of your loss never got any easier. I felt the impact of losing you every single day.
I’ve never felt so alone, so lost, so hopeless. I wanted to call you because that’s what I always did when I was upset or felt lost or lost hope. I couldn’t focus on accomplishing anything because you always kept me focused. I couldn’t find my way because you had always been my guide. I didn’t want to keep going because I didn’t have you there to tell me everything would be okay. You prepared me for so many things in life, just not this day.
No matter how people tried to comfort me, it wasn’t you. I wanted you. I wanted to hear your voice, laugh about some silly post on Facebook, cry to you about some stupid boy, hear you great people while you worked. Everyone keeps telling me to be strong, remember the good times, stay positive. Those words in the face of constantly being exhausted, unable to focus or stay motivated, crying constantly, physically feeling empty and heartbroken, haven’t been able to console me.
You know what’s worse than having such a horrific nightmare? Not being able to wake up. I’m still waiting for you to call me and say, “You forgot about me?” As you did if we hadn’t talked in a few hours. I’m still waiting for you to post a selfie or some news stories so I can tell you, “You post too much!” I’m still waiting for the day when I feel happy and whole again.
Sorry to tell such a terrible story on your birthday. And I know that it’s your day but I have a few wishes I’d like to make. I wish I was treating you to egg whites, turkey sausage, and cheddar grits at Ted’s Bulletin. I wish we were at grandma’s eating the strawberry cake you always requested on your birthday. I wish I could hug you or hear your voice again. I wish I could wake up from this nightmare.
Love you, forever and always,
The other half of “Just me and you”