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My Parents

A long weekend.

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I love to sleep. I’m really good at it and it’s one of my favorite things to do. When I want to cut off for the night (or nap in the middle of the day!), I can be asleep 15 minutes after I lie down and draw the curtains. That’s just a preface to say, it’s really unusual for me to have any trouble falling asleep, and because of that, I’m usually not sleepy in the middle of the day since I get 7 or 8 hours at night without any problem. This past Thursday after lunch however, I was exhausted. I was sitting straight up on the couch nodding off, and since I didn’t have anything else to do, I just decided to lie down and take a nap. Travis would be home later and he would want to watch Drag Race, so I’d be fresh and awake and alert and primed to laugh at jokes that aren’t that funny. I fell asleep for almost three hours. Three! When I shouldn’t have even been sleepy.

Later that night, I was getting ready for bed at my usual time, but of course I wasn’t tired, because I’d had a three hour nap in the afternoon. While I was brushing my teeth, my cousin Lisa called me, but I let it roll over to voicemail and I text that I would call her back in a few minutes, after I was done with my skincare routine and putting my hair up. She text back: It’s urgent. Call me.

That’s never good. An urgent call from family you don’t speak to regularly means somebody is dead or dying. I know those calls. I was at a rooftop party in Astoria when my brother-in-law called me and said my mom was being flown to a nearby hospital, and she was dead the next day. I was at dinner on the Upper West Side when my dad called and said my sister had died suddenly on vacation. So, a cousin from my dad’s side of the family with an urgent call at 11pm on a weeknight meant my dad must be dying.

I rinsed the toothpaste out of my mouth and called her. My cousin Lisa didn’t have any details, but my dad and Linda had been in a head-on car collision, and Lisa was calling to give me Tracey’s phone number for more details. Linda is my step-mother and Tracey is her daughter/my step-sister, but I still don’t think of them as step-family. More on that later.

I called Tracey and it didn’t sound good. A car had crossed the center line and hit them head on. My dad was driving and took the worst of the impact, so they were flying him to a nearby hospital. Linda was on her way to the same hospital in an ambulance. Tracey gave me as much as EMS had given her when they called from the scene, but she would call me with more information as soon as she got to the hospital.

That three hour nap I’d taken earlier in the day was prescient. Obviously there wouldn’t be any sleeping for awhile, because the last time I had a parent flown to the hospital, they didn’t make it.

My parents were bowlers, and I don’t mean just a Thursday Night League bowler you might see on a sitcom. Bowling was our family hobby. It’s what we did after church, what we did if we went out to dinner, what we did on vacation. Most of the time it was why we went on vacation in the first place because they would enter tournaments all over the country as an excuse to road trip and see the US. I missed weeks of school every year on the road with Mom & Dad going to bowling tournaments, some of them for me and some for my parents. My mom and dad both bowled in singles, in doubles together, and on a team of 4 or 5. My dad had his men’s team (I still remember all of their names) and my mom had her women’s team (who were all like aunties to me) and Miss Linda (as I knew her growing up) was on the women’s team with my mom. If there was a women’s doubles category, my mom and Miss Linda were paired. For mixed teams, Miss Linda was there with my mom and dad and dad’s best friend Burke.

When Tracey told me they had been on the way home from the bowling alley, I smiled because of course they would be. Why else would two old Black people in the rural South be out that late on a weeknight? My mom didn’t love bowling as much as my dad did. She had a very slow roll that my dad used to make fun of incessantly, and she wasn’t as consistent during a tournament. She might completely bulldoze over the competition or she might tank. It depended on her mood and which way the wind was blowing. Plus, my mom liked to grow her nails long, and sometimes bowling would damage them. Miss Linda was a force though and she was one of the few women in the league who could go toe to toe with the men. In the few years leading up to my mom’s passing, she bowled less and less. She’d still go and enter the team category, but for mixed doubles, Miss Linda bowled with my dad a lot of the time.

Tracey is very calm on the phone and she reminded me of my sister Leslie. (I’m sorry about all these L-names. I didn’t realize until typing it out just now but it’s Cousin Lisa, Stepmom Linda, and Sister Leslie.) She and my sister were about the same age growing up — way older than I was. They were both off to college while Sesame Street was watching me nap, and I think they both worked at the same pharmacy on summer breaks. Tracey is still a pharmacist. My sister eventually ended up in NICU.

Before Leslie died, she was the one who was calm in a crisis. I’m the baby so I don’t have to be calm. Her upbringing had been so much different from mine because my parents were young and struggling when she was coming up. They were old and stable when I got here. I didn’t have stressed out parents who were yelling about things. I had old parents who said “meh” a lot and indulged me in anything I wanted. So it was Leslie’s job to be calm and talk to doctors and tell us what was happening. Before, it was my sister Leslie telling me about my mom. Now it was my step-sister Tracey telling me about my step-mom and dad. To me they’ve always been my mom’s friend Miss Linda and my sister’s friend Tracey, but talking to her on the phone really solidified that this is family.

Tracey gave me updates as the night went on, and with each call, I relaxed a little more. I learned that his scans didn’t show any internal injuries. His head was fine. Nothing was wrong with his spine. In a head-on collision, those are what you worry about most, but Dad didn’t have any of that. What he did have were multiple breaks in his limbs, a lot of surgeries to get through, and a lengthy recovery ahead. Linda was pretty banged up too, but nothing catastrophic. These two old people made it through with broken bones. The next day, Tracey sent me screenshots she took while Dad and Linda were facetiming. From the neck up, they looked fine — just old and grumpy, which I can very much relate to. He’s been in and out of surgery over the holiday weekend and what he really wants is some independence from that hospital bed. When I talked to him yesterday, he cussed a few times because he can’t roll over.

He’s not completely out of the woods. Some of his breaks were so severe the bones came through the skin, so they’re watching for infection. Blood clots have been an issue and he has some more surgeries scheduled this week, but all of this is so far removed from what I pictured Thursday night when I got another urgent phone call. I didn’t expect him to be talking shit and telling the doctors how to do their job.

He’s back in surgery today so my focus is all over the place, as it has been all weekend, because I can’t be down there right away. I haven’t worked in forever, our rent went up without a third roommate, and I spent all my money to create a calm home environment for myself to recover from the PTSD that evil spawn left me with. I probably wouldn’t have bought an expensive dining table last month if I’d known my dad would have two broken arms and two broken legs, but his sisters are half an hour away and they’re taking care of him. When I go down and cook for him in a couple of weeks, it’ll be the first time we haven’t gone bowling on a visit, but I’ll find him a new hobby. Maybe I’ll teach him how to bake something! Or maybe I shouldn’t press my luck with too many miracles back to back…

 

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