Do you ever find yourself thinking about what it was you were doing just before everything changed?
And not only that, but how normal it seemed?
Sometimes I wonder if it’s weird that I remember these things and hold on to them as some sort of basis of comparison. While I’ve recently been accused of not dealing with change, when a lot of things change quickly, it’s sometimes difficult to organize that. I still remember that last little bit of “normal” before everything went haywire, and whether it’s a coping mechanism or not, I reach back to that.
On April 20, 1999, I was sick. I went to school, stayed through second period so I could take my chemistry test, and then I went home to rest. We had family pictures at church that night, and I didn’t want to look sick. I took a nap, I worked on some homework, I picked out my picture clothes, and then Columbine happened.
Gone were the days of lax school security.
In the very first moments of September 11, 2001, I was sitting at my computer talking to friends on IM and making a CD to listen to in my Discman the following day. Tuesdays were my long days and they involved a lot of walking back and forth across campus. I was finally getting adjusted to college life. I went to bed around 1 a.m. and woke up at 8:30 the next morning to get a shower before work at 9:45. While I was in the shower, the entire world changed.
Gone were the days of lax airport security and sitting with someone until their flight left. Gone were thousands of innocent lives.
On Monday, February 6, 2006, I was in a grouchy mood with my first period class. I was teaching them Greek mythology and we were in the computer lab. They were annoying me, and I started yelling at the good kids. During second period, I got the call that I needed to leave school and come back to PA immediately because my grandmother was dying. When I got there about 5 hours later, she gave me a kiss. 20 minutes after that, she slipped into a coma and died the following night.
Gone were the days of returning home when Gram would say, “Come visit me! Let’s go out for lunch. I’ll take you out for Chinese.” It took me a whole year and a half to be able to eat Chinese food again. I never did get to take her for a ride in my new car as she’d requested the last time I saw her before the end.
On August 13, 1996, I spent the day at Ag Progress Days (a celebration of farming) with my mom’s parents (my grandfather is a farmer). When we got home, my mom went to work, my dad went somewhere else. I got on the phone, as teenage girls do, and was talking to my friend about boys. I remember hearing my mom come back through the front door about an hour later, and those last few seconds when I walked up the steps, before I could see her face and she could tell me that my paternal grandmother had passed away.
I’m full of little moments like these. I remember going out for drinks with a friend before coming back to my dorm and finding out bad news. Or writing, going to the movies, going to a softball game, driving around listening to Butch Walker, and finally coming home to find more changes in my foundation.
The one that I keep reaching back to the most lately is April 6 of this year.
My mom was off work that day, and she took me out to lunch. She told me not to tell my dad because we really didn’t have the money, but she wanted to go and I wanted to get out of the house, so I abandoned my writing and went with her. When we came home, we took the dogs and went for a short walk because the weather was beautiful. On our way out the door, we passed my dad, who was just coming in from work, his large lunch box in his arm. He was in a foul mood and didn’t feel good. He was in a hurry because he had a diabetes check up at the doctor’s office in a few minutes.
We were home from our walk for maybe 15 minutes and I’d just hit “publish” on my post for the day when the phone rang. I didn’t think much of it until my mom said that the doctor’s office wanted us to go over right away because my dad might be having a heart attack.
That wasn’t the case, and it would take me too long to explain, but my dad spent the next few April days in the hospital. He was in the hospital again twice in May, three times in June, and he’s been in the hospital for this entire week. Every fix seems to create more problems, even though he’s had numerous surgical procedures done.
For someone so prone to stress, I manage to stay pretty level-headed with his illness. But when it gets to me, it really gets to me.
And I start thinking about how badly I want one normal day. I know things change and that it would be no good if everything stayed the same all the time. But sometimes I just want one day where everything feels in line.
In my normal day, I get up in the morning and go to work. I come home to my own place and do things my own way. I probably eat scrambled eggs for dinner. I call home to talk to my parents, and my healthy father tells me about his day at the job he can still go to. And he’s not sick anymore. And we don’t have to go back to the hospital. Ever. And he doesn’t forget, in an anaesthesia cloud, that I was in the ICU talking to him. And when I go to sleep at night, I don’t see him lying in a hospital bed with various tubes, wires, and monitors attached to him.
And after I hang up the phone, a close friend or two will get in touch with me to talk or hang out or just see how I’m holding up because they haven’t forgotten all about me and they want to spend time in my company. And when I try to make plans with someone, I don’t get the nice phrasing of “Let me make sure I don’t have something better happening with people I’d rather spend time with.”
No one (knowingly or not) makes me feel like I’m burdening them. No one flat out ignores me. No one tells me that I have so much going on that they can’t deal with me at this stage in my life.
(None of which is to imply that I believe everyone behaves as such. I am grateful for those who have reached out to me during this time.)
Everything is deliciously normal and boring. There are not three or four sizable conflicts at once. Everything just is. A totally normal day.
I just want to go back and pull all of those moments together and relive things the way they were before they got complicated. Whether this is a defense mechanism or a coping strategy, I don’t know. Or maybe, as some people have been telling me, it’s just a total inability to deal with change or separate the different parts of my life.
It just all gets to be so much sometimes, you know?
Normal seems so boring until you miss it.
Is it just me? What kind of normal day do you think about?