continued from Part 1
At the height of the recession, J and I were thankful to have jobs. Neither one of us were making great money, but plenty of people were stuck on unemployment and having trouble finding work. As we prepared ourselves for the first holidays since his dad’s passing, we looked forward to 2010 as the year that we’d be able to move in together.
In November of 2009, I was covering for the receptionist at work when J’s cell number lit up the call screen. I answered eagerly, still relishing the fact that I had a boyfriend who called me at work from time to time.
But when he told me that he’d been fired, I went into instant panic mode. I remember crying in my office, feeling angry and confused. We had just gotten back to our new normal; how could this be happening? My anger and frustration only grew when I learned the details of his termination – it was due to a miscommunication that had been blown out of proportion, and he spent the next several months fighting for unemployment benefits. As 2009 came to a close, we had to face the harsh reality that our dreams of moving in together would once again be delayed.
Over the next couple of months, J spent hours every day desperately trying to find a job in a crumbling economy. To make matters worse, he had a health scare in March that sent him to the hospital for several days while he was uninsured. Though we were both grateful that he was eventually okay, he was now several thousand dollars in debt due to medical bills, with no job prospects to soften the blow.
It took J six months to find a job, and another six months to find one that he didn’t hate or didn’t put his well being in danger. By the fall of 2010, he was finally making steady money again. Little did we know that our problems weren’t over yet.
On October 16, 2010, I woke up to find a note on the kitchen table in my mom’s neat handwriting. Dad had taken her to the hospital for antibiotics, it read. See you in a day or two.
Mom had been doing at-home kidney dialysis for years, and occasionally she contracted peritonitis from it. This was a common problem for dialysis patients, but luckily one that was treated quickly and easily with IV antibiotics. She’d had it a few times in the past, and after spending 24-48 hours in the hospital, she’d return home perfectly fine. This was not one of those times.
The infection Mom had contracted raged out of control for days, which turned into weeks, which turned into months. She was admitted and released to and from the hospital three separate times and underwent several procedures and surgeries. Nothing the doctors were giving her seemed able to fight the infection that had consumed her entire peritoneal cavity. To make matters worse, the strong drugs they were giving her diminished her appetite and made her unable to keep down anything she did eat, so she wasn’t getting enough nutrition. She grew weaker and sicker before our eyes, and was in the ICU by Thanksgiving. As the rest of the world readied itself for Christmas, I was faced with the possibility that I might lose my mom.
The idea wasn’t new to me, considering that she’d been fighting an autoimmune disease and subsequent kidney disease since I was five, but this time things really seemed bleak. I remember spending every spare moment at the hospital, jumping every time the phone rang, and being so sick with worry and fear that I could barely eat. I lost ten pounds in a month, and was desperately trying to keep the house, laundry, and meals together in her absence. All the while, my work suffered, as did my relationship with J. I was so exhausted of having bad things happen to us, and I had no idea how to convey my grief to anyone. The icing on the proverbial cake was the group of friends I lost in those months – people I’d known since middle school who accused me of being a drama queen and a cry baby and were actually angry that I skipped a Halloween party to be with my hospitalized mother.
By some miracle, Mom began to recover just before Christmas. We spent the holiday in a rehabilitation center, and a few weeks into the New Year she was finally home for good.
After living through what ended up being some of the most trying months of my life, I was definitely ready for a bit of a reprieve . . .