What else is Needed?
What else is Needed?
I was about six at the time. Yeah six. Maybe seven? Either way, it was about fifteen years ago, and mother was in a coma.
Okay so, give me a break here. I was six, and my dad just up and says that mom wasn’t ever coming back! Can you believe that!? Who does that!?
Right, so on to the story. So, he sits me down under the oak tree in our backyard, on that creaky wooden bench… God knows how that thing is still hanging.
He says to me, “Listen, honey.” Takes a long pause. I look up at him, just kind of, you know, knowing that I’ve got to hear what he has to say. “Do you remember that fall your mother had, when she hit her head on the counter?”
I just kinda nod.
“Well, she is sleeping now. You’re going to have to get used to not seeing her anymore.”
So, I jump off the bench, wait a bit. Then I ask him, “You mean she isn’t coming back?”
I tell you I remember it clearly, even though my sight was blurry since I was about to cry. His hands were covering his face, and he lifts his head, looks me straight and without skipping a beat, says, “She’s never coming back.”
I start bawling my eyes out. All I remember then was his embrace, just hugging me, and I was shaking. Shaking hard. And the comfort I felt in that moment was nothing like I’ve ever felt before or since. The love that man has for me is just indescribable, and I just hope I feel the same way about him.
… Sorry, I don’t mean to tear up…
A couple days or weeks later, honestly, I don’t know, I had this urge, this need. I needed to go see mom, and I thought I knew the way to the hospital. A hospital that was an hour drive in the middle of nowhere.
It’s early morning. I know how to do stuff on my own, thank you very much. I’m a big girl, right? I pack myself a peanut butter and jelly. Oh, and mom is going to need one too, so I make one for her too. Those two sandwiches, I kid you not, are the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’ve ever made.
So, I get my backpack. It had a penguin kicking a soccer ball. It was so cute. Next, I head out the door, lock it like a good girl, and start on my merry way to where I think the hospital is. Dad had taken us there a few times, so I could do it right?
I’m walking and walking. I start to realize that everything is slower than usual. Like I’m not moving. The sun rises and rises and I’m still walking. I’m going the right way, for sure. I notice a giant bear statue that we always pass, and I know immediately I have to turn right. Now, you would think cars would start going by, right? But again, this is the middle of nowhere.
It’s getting hot, and I’m getting hungry. I look around and all I see is a badly paved double-yellow line road. Oh, and trees on both sides. Just trees and trees. Pine trees, by the way.
I start scarfing down that first peanut butter and jelly. You remember when I said it was good? Best peanut butter and jelly I’ve ever had in my life.
I keep walking. The sun was directly overhead. But, by this point a few cars were starting to pass by. I started playing a little game and hid from each one that I saw coming by.
I was good at hide and seek when I was six. I remember a few cop cars going by too.
Eventually, you know the sun starts going down like it usually does on most days, and I see this familiar car driving down the street. It was dad. I start waving and the car screeches to a stop.
I start saying, “Daddy! Aren’t you proud of me!? Let’s go see mommy!”
And Holy Crap, I’ve never seen my father so red in my life. As soon as he gets out of the car, I feel this horrible, horrible sense that I just did something I wasn’t supposed to do. And then he starts yelling, and I have no idea what he said, but it took forever. And when I say forever, I mean forever. I was so scared, I couldn’t even cry. But believe me I wanted to.
I get in the car, and we keep going in the direction of the hospital. Oh, there was a cop car following us for a bit, then sped past us. I think at the time, that I thought dad was in trouble for something.
Dad calmed down a bit of the way there, as said, “I’m sorry, Grace. Please. Never ever go out without me again. You need to promise me that!”
I was actually mad at him for yelling at me, but I nodded.
Honestly, I don’t think I got very far that day. But you know the rest. Dad was wrong. Mom did wake up, even if it did take a few months.
Also, I didn’t talk to him for weeks.
I was a fairly young father when we had Grace. Judy and I were both nineteen. Judy’s actually a month older than me. She just turned forty-three. My birthday is in a week.
When I told Grace about her mother in the coma, she’ll tell you that I just outright told her that she wasn’t coming back, but that isn’t true. I can assure you I was in pain. My wife had slipped in the kitchen because of a faulty tile that hadn’t been laid down correctly for our renovations. There was a lawsuit and everything, and yes, we won, but I don’t want to get into any of that.
Grace had just turned six. She was a rambunctious child, let me tell you. She ran up and down, up and down. This kid ran both Judy and I ragged whenever I came home, and the babysitter was always so tired. The wife and I would take turns cooking so we could handle her. Geez, I sound like I was old when I was in my twenties.
Now, I know from Grace’s perspective I said that her mother wasn’t coming back, but here’s how it actually happened.
I took her to this wooden bench under an oak we have in our back yard. I sat down. It took a while to muster up the courage to tell her, but when I did, I remember exactly what I said, “Listen, honey. Gracie girl. Do you remember that fall your mother had when, she hit her head on the counter?”
She just kinda nodded.
Then I said, “Well, she is sleeping now. You’re going to have to get used to not seeing her anymore.”
I didn’t know how else to break the news to her, so I told her the truth. Right then, she jumped off the bench. She was thinking hard. She eventually came out and asked if mom would ever come back, and I said, “She will be coming back. But I don’t know when.”
To be honest with you, I don’t know if Grace heard me right. Because she started shaking like crazy. So, I just hugged her. That was one of the most cathartic hugs I’ve ever experienced. Nothing has ever compared.
We go to bed that night, and the next day, I wake up, call for Grace. I call for her again. It’s the weekend, so I kind of just shrug it off, thinking she is asleep, so I let her be. I go about my day and make breakfast. Looking back, I really should have checked on her. I go for a morning jog. We have an acre of land, so I never left the property. I come back, shower. It’s eleven, and in my mind, Grace is still asleep.
I go and bang on her door. Nothing. Obviously, I’ve got a key, but I bang again. Nothing. I take out my key and open the door, yelling, “Grace, get up!”
She isn’t there.
I was in shock. I was frantic. Calling for her everywhere. I must have spent an hour trying to call her, running around. I think I was whining, yelling, you name it. I called 911, and low and I had no reception. Did everything I could. I was panicked beyond any rational thinking by then.
A little after noon, I got in my car, and started driving. Just driving. I had to get to the police station, and I really don’t even remember driving. Probably ran a stop sign or two.
I get there and I get out of the car, and I knocked a guy down running through that door. I yelled, “My daughter! Please help!”
I think that guy wanted to punch me. But there was a cop that stopped him and asked me to calm down. I told them the situation, and they started asking me questions about where she could have gone.
I started thinking rationally in that moment. I remembered that Grace probably wanted to see her mother.
She was seriously independent, ever since she was a toddler. I swear, she was making play cupcakes and you couldn’t tell her how to make them or she’d push you away.
I remember one time, she was playing with this toy car, going “Vroom, vroom! RRRR vroom!” And I asked what she was doing, and she said, “Mommy said you’re a bad driver, so I have to start practicing.” I think she was five.
When I realized what she was doing, I told the cops where she could be. I told them outright, she would know the direction. Grace has a perfect sense of direction… Honestly, I have no idea where it comes from, because both her parents are always getting lost. We go on family trips sometimes even now, and she gets us out of some jams.
I got into my car and started driving right then. After a bit, I see this little speck in the road strolling along. She was skipping. Skipping.
Next thing I know, I’m yelling at her, and we’re in the car again, driving towards the hospital. I call the cops and tell them I found her.
I don’t want to get into more logistics with the cops, but they had someone following me. Probably should have gotten ten tickets that day. That was a whole ordeal. But I have to be grateful for how they helped me.
Later, while driving, I tell her never to do that again. She nods, but I need to hear her say it out loud, and boy did she take a long time to say it. She didn’t seem so happy with me for at least a day after that. She didn’t talk to me for a day. But I made a point to take her to her mother every day after that. It was good for me too.
Needless to say, that was the worst few months of my life, and that day was the worst.
I watched that girl like a hawk for the next twelve years of her life.