“Come on,” I said to Mike’s parents as the ambulance drove away. “You can follow me to the hospital.”
His parents looked shell-shocked. Mike’s dad just kept repeating that they couldn’t care for Mike when he was discharged from the hospital and couldn’t he come live at the house? “But where will he go after the hospital?” his dad kept asking, to no one in particular.
I drove to the hospital and walked into the emergency room. “My husband was just delivered here by ambulance,” I told the check in person in the waiting room.
“He’s probably getting checked now, it’ll be a while before you can go back,” she replied.
“Oh, I’m not going back there. Just wanted to get his parents here,” I gestured to Mike’s parents standing behind me. “And to make sure you have our insurance information.”
I handed over the insurance card. I didn’t want to get saddled with medical bills later, so wanted to make sure the hospital had what they needed. Then I walked out and drove home. In a strange way, I felt relieved, almost peaceful.
I called the hospital later that night and talked to Mike’s nurse. His blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit. (SIDENOTE: I will wonder, for the rest of my life, what in the hell Mike’s parents were DOING when they were at my house. They claim they never saw him drink, yet his BAL was FIVE TIMES the legal limit and alcohol bottles were thrown around the basement.)
Mike would spend a week in the hospital, shuffling from a rehab unit to the cardiology unit (his heart was showing signs of distress – even then). Over the course of the week, his parents came by the house a few times to get Mike’s belongings, but they never expressed interest in seeing the kids or having a conversation. And they would always come when the kids were in bed.
When I picked Ethan up from school that day, I didn’t know what to say. His dad was gone and so were his grandparents (opting to stay in a hotel as opposed to staying at the house).
Of everything that’s happened over the last year, it’s how I handled it with my son that I regret. I should have thought that through better, but how could I have anticipated the ambulance, going to the hospital or getting the court order so quickly? I was prepared to tell Ethan about the separation, but now it was so complicated.
I told Ethan that his dad was sick. “It’s the alcohol, isn’t it?” he asked. He was way too wise for his own good – and he had seen and heard too much in his young years.
“Yeah,” was all I could say.
I stayed on the dad-is-sick message for weeks. When he told his therapist that he was worried his dad was going to die, I knew I had to be more forthcoming. Originally, I thought Mike and I could co-present the separation to him. Display a united front to show that we had Ethan’s and Lauren’s best interests in mind. I believed that we could act as adults and have a productive, loving co-parenting relationship.
That wasn’t going to happen. I was on my own. I shouldn’t have waited as long as I did, but I can’t change time. I was as honest as possible with Ethan, telling him that daddy was dealing with his drinking and that he was going to live with his parents in Indiana, but that Ethan and Lauren would have two houses someday. “So, two Christmases?” he asked. I guess that is all that matters to a six-year-old.
When Mike was discharged, his parents took him back to Indiana. The kids and I saw him in-person only two more times between when he was taken by ambulance and when he died.
After the second court date a few weeks after the first (in which a second judge upheld the court order), he Skyped with the kids on occasion, and, at first, called every night to talk to Ethan. In November, the calls became fewer and fewer with more and more time in between. Skyping became even more rare.
That’s the story of this anniversary. I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but, well, as you know now, it’s a long story. It’s been a bittersweet time (man, using that word a lot lately) and it seemed the right time to get these thoughts out since I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
There’s more to write, but not today. Today, I’m going to wrap up some work stuff and go play with the kids.