The Perfect Sto…

The Perfect Storm

Last weekend we brought chairs and sat at the Italian Festival in East Rochester to people-watch and listen to the Dean Martin-Frank Sinatra (sound-alikes) show. It was fun watching the people, especially three little boys, maybe 10 or 12, who were mostly running around the tents. The way they looked behind them and then ran even faster indicated that they were trying to evade someone. And how they laughed when they succeeded made you think that that someone was a person of authority for the evening.

What really caught my eye was that one of the boys was carrying a plastic bag, half filled with water, and tied at the top. A battered and beleaguered goldfish bounced round and round, up and down, in the water as his new owner swung his arms in his race to escape. I couldn’t help but think, That poor little fish is in the midst of a Perfect Storm.

The music and people-watching and weekend passed and I wondered about that goldfish. Did the loving care he hopefully received once at home help him to survive the Storm? Because Life is filled with storms, some of them more Perfect than others. And it’s the love of those around us that I firmly believe help us weather those storms.

My Perfect Storm happened six years ago June 13th. I was separating a large supply of fresh-cut flowers into individual bouquets for my daughter’s school’s year-end dance performance. My daughter, Mary Kay, was at Roberts Wesleyan’s theater complex directing the dress rehearsal of Firebird, in which Heather Ogden, principal dancer for the National Ballet of Canada, would perform as the guest artist.

My phone rang; my daughter’s husband told me something happened to Mary Kay and she was on her way to Strong Memorial Hospital via ambulance. I dropped everything and hit the road running. Later, I learned that she told a couple of her “backstage mothers” (competent performance helpers for many years) that she didn’t feel well, walked across the stage to sit down, and passed out. By the time medics arrived, there was no heartbeat.

As I was en route, the hospital venue changed to Park Ridge Hospital. Her husband and two of her three children were there already. The doctor came to me and asked me to sit down, which annoyed me. Just tell me what’s wrong here and we can get on with fixing it!

I asked if I could talk to her, that patients can still hear even when they’re unconscious. On our way to the room where she lay on a gurney, a machine rhythmically pumping on her chest, he told me that there hadn’t been a heartbeat for at least an hour. In my sea of denial, I asked him how long you could go without a heartbeat before there was brain damage.

No answer.

What struck me as I spoke to her, first requesting and then demanding that she wake up and speak to me, was how beautiful she was. She’s always been beautiful, but she looked perfect there. Her wavy hair, always a struggle for her to control, was perfectly coifed, her face perfectly clear of makeup, but beginning to embrace a strange coloration, and her eyelashes… I kept looking at her eyelashes. They were so long and perfectly curled, a mascara ad in the making.

But nothing moved as I spoke to her, begging her to please respond. (I had promised the doctor I wouldn’t cry or upset her at all, so I was careful to control my emotions.) I did finally allow a harshness to my voice, the firm mother voice, saying, “Mary Kay! Come on! You have to come to. You have to…” I stopped. I’d almost said, “You have to be here for the kids.” That would have really gotten her, but I didn’t want to create any more stress for her.

None of the doctors there, although pain and compassion all over their faces, ever told us that she was gone. The doctor in charge finally came to me and said I should call the family to come. I guess that’s when the tidal wave hit, although I vowed to remain solid in front of her kids. The Storm was violent, thrashing, intercepted often with consuming sorrow, and then whipping and lashing  again.

One of her children hung over the gurney, hugged her and cried, saying over and over again, “She wouldn’t have wanted this. She wouldn’t have wanted this.” And he was right. She would have never left her children unattended, without her support and guidance and love. Never! But this was a Perfect Storm. Its devastation was absolute, final, and deadly.

Six years ago. Still so fresh in my mind and in my heart. Riding the waves again, buffeted by the winds, drowning in waiting for and wanting her morning phone calls. God! It’s so not fair.

But the rain and the winds and the raging weather inside me are calming down. So much love has been sent to me, like lifesavers floating on the sea, I am warmed. I am buoyed. Love is the ballast. I am making it through another Perfect Storm.



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