Three Things (or more) We Learned at the ER

Today started out soon in the morning.


a.m. that is.

I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing in the other room.  Once fully awake, I moved with purpose to get to it, only to miss the call.  Hoping it was a weather alert or some such as that, I looked at the Caller ID.

Oh no.

My oldest.

Supposedly tucked in safely in her dorm room at the Oldest and Best.

But something wasn’t right or she would not be calling so early.

I was right.  Something was very wrong.  She’s had health issues similar to this before, but the pain has never been so bad, so terrifying–she felt paralyzed.

The calmness in my voice did not betray what was in my heart.  I was at least 45 minutes away and I was in my pajamas.  I suggested she call 911, but she said no, she could wait.

I have not gotten ready that fast since Mama called me and told me it was time to come tell my Daddy goodbye.   And this morning’s trip up the road to the campus was a long, long drive.  I played the radio on low as I drove as fast as I dared in the darkness.  Trying to distract myself, I flipped through a couple of different stations.  Finally I ignored it all and just thought.  About my sick baby.  About my Mama.  And for a few moments it was as though she were sitting in the passenger seat alongside me.  I felt peace, and a few minutes later my daughter texted that the pain had lessened somewhat.

That was news I could handle.  Definitely.

After five hours in the ER, where everyone was nice, the facility was clean and quiet (come to think of it, I never heard an intercom), and we were given a room almost immediately, we were heading out with news that nothing was seen that could be problematic.  It seems to be, unfortunately, something she will have to live with and deal with from time to time.  The good news is she can live with it.  So thankful.

In the middle of her visit, when they were pouring liquids down her to prepare her for the ultrasound, my girl did what most her age seem to be doing.  She took a selfie.

Oh me.

But instead of rolling my eyes, I laughed.  She must be feeling somewhat better if she felt like taking a selfie.  After we were able to share with her grandmother what was going on, my daughter shared her funny picture on Facebook, hospital gown and all, along with three things she learned today:

Things I learned today: 
1. Hospital gown blue is definitely my color 
2. Hospitals use Starbucks straws, and 
3. You’re never too old to call your Mama to hold your hand in the ER.

It made me smile.  Folks continued to check on her throughout the day and wish her well and ask her what on earth was going on.  I hope that girl knows how loved she is, and not just by her Mama.  But yeah, mostly her Mama.  I adore the ground she walks on, but I don’t hesitate a second to yank it out from under her when need be.

Today was not one of those days.  Today was a day of “poor baby’s”  and trying to make her laugh and asking the nurse to wait to take her blood pressure until this particular political commercial was over, because it really was making her crazy.  Today we memorized the weather in our town and all surrounding areas because we heard the weather report over and over on the morning news.  They really do design those shows for folks who are there for a few minutes and gone.  Seriously, same stuff.  Over.  And over.  And OVER.  We questioned Dr. Phil’s choices, and then questioned if he had run out of normal troubled folks, because it seems that he’s digging deep to find this sort of crazy.  For real.  Tomorrow’s show will be about two women–each one thinks the other is stalking her…..and they’d never met before the show.  Okay, that eye roll I skipped during the selfie?  Insert it {here} please.  I will not be watching.

When I narrowed it down to three things I learned, here’s what I came up with:

1.  This raising children is never over, it never gets easier, and no matter how old they are, when they’re hurting or in trouble, they’re your baby.  ALWAYS.

2.  You’re never too old to wish your Mama was there in the ER with you, no matter how old you are, no matter why you’re there–you never stop wanting her comforting presence.  I know, I sure wanted mine today.  

3.  Good news becomes more precious and appreciated the older I get.  When the doctor said, “all clear,” my whole body did the fist pump, “YES!”  


Tonight I’m thankful for that good news, for my baby girl who still wants me to hold her hand, and for the nurse who tied the back of her hospital gown because I had not done it.  (Epic Mama Fail there.)  I’m thankful for the Fella and Leroy who took care of the littles in style (I think they are working to have me replaced by their uncle–he is now their favorite! Adventures and lunch out will do that for a person).  I give thanks for all of those who love my girl and wanted to know she is okay.  I appreciate those who were there to calm my worries and anxieties so that I didn’t pass them along to my girl.  And I give thanks for the voice of one who loves her so and has ever since she became the other female in the family, whose voice quivered today when she thought about what could have happened to her little one–the one she will probably always see as 7 years old and in pigtails.

It’s always a good day to give someone good news and tell them how much they mean to us.  We really shouldn’t wait until they need us to hold their hands in the ER.  That’s a good message to hear anytime.

Love to all.

What Else Are You Gonna Do?

As I sat there tonight across from my dear Heartfriend from years past, I looked at her beautiful face that hasn’t changed one bit in the twenty-three years since we spent almost every day together.  The kindness, the wit, the heart–all still there.  But there was something else.  In her smile.

There was peace.

We were catching up on untold stories and laughing over shared memories.  Only this was no ordinary visit.  We were speaking in quieter tones than normal, so as not to disturb her resting husband.  From time to time medical staff came to his bedside to run tests, check numbers, and ask questions.

A hospital.

She’s no stranger to them.  She and her sweet Fella have been here before.  Several times.

And yet she had a smile on her face.  Same as all those years ago.

This girl was the kind of friend who came out with a baseball bat, swinging, “Where are they?  I got this.”  (Seriously.  I have stories to prove it.)  And she still is.

As she shared with me the ins and outs of all that is going on right now, and none of it is easy, I was amazed.  I finally had to say something.

“And yet you’re still smiling,” I said, half-questioning, pretty much amazed.

She shrugged and smiled again.  “What else are you gonna do?  It is what it is.”


What else are you gonna do?  Indeed.  How about wallow in it?  Throw stuff around?  Walk around so bogged down in all that is going on in your life right now that you just can’t get past it?  Yell at God, shake your fists, and ask why?

But not this beautiful person, not my friend.

In the case of better or bitter, my sweet Heartfriend has chosen better.  And I see it on her face.  She has peace.  Is she concerned?  I am sure.  Worn out.  I’m thinking that’s an affirmative.  But is she angry?  Borrowing trouble?  Making excuses? Cutting people off in traffic and making everyone around her pay for what she’s going through? Absolutely not.

That’s not how she is.

What else are you gonna do?  How about use your gifts and talents to bless those around you?  Plan for the future by crocheting for a baby that’s coming soon?  Laugh about the funny little things, find joy in the lives of those around you, and share stories and listen and ask “why didn’t you tell me sooner? I would have been there.”

This looking outward and loving those around her when she has every right to be focused inward on what is going on in her own life?

That right there.

I want to be just like her when I grow up.  (She is after all, I believe, six months older than me minus a day.)

Tonight I am thankful for the visit with my friend, despite the circumstances.  I give thanks for hers and her husband’s smiles and I am praying/fingers crossed/hoping that the doctors will figure out how to make him better soon, so they can grow to be the “old couple that walks through Wal-Mart holding hands as they walk along slowly” that she dreams of them being.  I’m thankful our paths intertwined all those years ago, the day I walked into an office that had been hers alone, and instead of turning away, she slid over, made room, and changed my life and blessed my heart forever.   Bottom line, I am thankful for her.  My Heartfriend.  Because in the wise words of a rather small fella:

From A. A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh"

From A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh”


My Sister, Duck Calls, and Sal

The good news was I had a place to stay.  The bad news was it was with fifteen of my new best friends whom I had only just met.  And not even properly, mind you.  We were all thrown together in the waiting area for the CVICU.  Mama didn’t want me to stay, but I was without wheels and it was too late to call someone for a ride home by the time they got Mama settled in her new room.  Night 2 of HospitalStay.

The lights were still bright in the waiting room around midnight.  I only hoped they would eventually dim them.  Let me go ahead and break the suspense.  They did not.  Bright lights.  All.  Night.  Long.

The TV was blaring TNT.  Now for those that love car chase movies with constant car crashes and gunfire, well, people is this the place for you!  Oh, and if you are hard of hearing, never fear, you would not have had a problem AT ALL in this room.

I called my sister who lives closest to the hospital.  I told her I had my Kindle (yes very fortunate, that) and I could read but I was having a hard time focusing.  I could have done any number of things with it, but what I really wanted to do was watch a show we had recently begun to enjoy at home–Duck Dynasty.  I could download it through Amazon, but I would have to buy the whole season.  My frugal sister said, “Do it. You deserve it.  You need it.”   Now, yes, she is my younger sister, but when this girl tells you to do something, it’s a little hard to say no.  So I bought it and downloaded it.  Because she told me to.  (Yeah, that never really worked when I was young either.)

After I went back to visit Mama for the half hour I was allowed to be in there, I returned to the waiting area.  I did have my favorite chair that was close to an outlet and was on an end of a row.  Okay, I could do this.  But wait…..pillows and blankets?  These people had pillows and blankets!  This was like every spend the night party I ever went to.  Go to the bathroom or doze for a few minutes and totally miss out on everything!  I looked around.  The lights were still bright and the TV still blaring, but these folks were snoozing away, most of them.  Because THEY had pillows and blankets.  I was very sad.  Pitiful even.  I tried to use one of my bags as a pillow and my sweater as a blanket.  I must say that the twenty minutes of sleep I got that night were delightful.  And very rejuvenating.  NOT.

Fast forward to the next night that I wrote about in The Three Gifts.  After midnight when Sandy and I were by ourselves, cuddled under blankets brought by our friend, I pulled out the Kindle.  With all the competing noise the night before, I had not even started watching Duck Dynasty.  Sandy had never seen it, so we sat in the otherwise empty waiting area of the surgery unit and watched a little Duck Dynasty.  We laughed at times, if a bit tentatively.  I mean, really, these are just fun people.  It was very surreal, laughing in the midst of the anxiety, but it helped.

After we watched an episode, we checked the clock for the umpteenth time.  Sandy asked me if I had watched the link she had sent me earlier.  I had not.  Okay, she said, now is the time.  And she introduced me to Sal Siccia, someone who was to bring us much comfort and many laughs during the HospitalStay.  Bless him, he took requests.  So friends, meet Sal.

It might have been that we were both so tired and anxious, but we laughed until our stomachs hurt and tears were running down our cheeks.  I found myself going back to watch this at the oddest times, just to bring that great feeling of our camaraderie and laughter back for a moment.  And can I just say that Taylor Swift is a true poet!  So many times in the midst of all the unknowns for Mama during the HospitalStay, Sandy and I would say to each other, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  And when the folks on the STICU were a little too rigid with their visiting times?  “Why you gotta be so MEAN?!”

It was a little over three weeks later that Sal shared this, a surprise and blessing that brought me to tears.  A beautiful sympathy card.

A precious tribute to our Mama and all Mamas everywhere.  I had never really heard that part of the song before.

Tonight I am thankful for the laughter amidst the chaos, the comfort of laughing with someone who gets it even when the situation calls for tears.  I am thankful for twenty minutes of sleep feeling like a couple of hours.  I appreciate the gift of a Kindle, of a sister telling me to take care of myself, and of good people sharing their stories.  I give thanks that I have a new friend in Sal, who loves by sharing laughter and entertaining.  Most of all I am thankful for my Mama, who laughed at all my jokes, even if she were rolling her eyes at the silliness.  And for the way she could make me laugh without even saying a word.  I’m thankful I’ve known a mother’s love.   It just doesn’t get much better than that.

The Scarf and the Memories

scarf and ball of yarn

This is the scarf I started knitting a little over two months ago. Knitting? Well, not quite. Actually a new technique I fell for called Tunisian Crochet. For sure easier than knitting, and I really like how it looks. I had gotten the yarn at one of the places I scour for fun yarn, and I just loved the color scheme. I packed it in my bag to take to the hospital when Sandy and I were visiting Mama every day. As Sandy sat in the chair in the corner working away on her computer, managing business deals I could not even comprehend, I sat in the other chair, looking for something constructive to do. Something besides watching the stats screen or the respiratory screen (and calling out how many breaths she was taking on her own) or using my phone to convert Mama’s temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit. (For goodness’ sake, who started that routine—I’m not even sure the nurses knew what constituted a fever on the Celsius scale.)

I finally pulled out the hook and yarn and got started. I love this style, I really do. I called over to Sandy, once more truly earning the nickname of “Interrupting Tara,” and showed her the beginnings of the scarf, “Look at this.”

“What are you making?” she asked, looking up from her computer screen.

“A scarf,” I said, tearing up. It had only been two weeks before that I’d finished my first scarf in this pattern. A green one. A really pretty, true green. For Mama’s birthday. After the last thing I’d made and given her late last year, she said, “It’s really pretty. You know, you’ve never made me anything green.” I really appreciated her saying that. I loved it when she gave us gift ideas. And besides she was right, and what was that about? Green was her favorite color. A true green, not chartreuse like I love. So I knew that the next thing I would make her would have to be green. I and my crew set out on the adventure of finding The Perfect Green for Maemae. Which we did. I even had to go back and get a second skein when I realized that one would not be long enough for her scarf. I finished it just a couple of days before Mama’s birthday. I found her a pair of khaki slacks that she’d been needing too. I was set. But that was the Weekthateverythingchanged. We didn’t celebrate on Tuesday, her birthday, because she was in a lot of pain and not feeling good at all. And my Kurt was running fever. We agreed to party on Friday, complete with Stevi B’s veggie pizza. Except on Friday I was sitting at Houston Medical with Mama, waiting for the ever-elusive ambulance to transport us to the Medical Center in Macon. To consult with Vascular Surgeons. And possibly to have VerySeriousSurgery for a potentially VerySeriousCondition.

Sandy sat up and stretched her back. She spoke to Mama, as we had been told that despite her not coming out of sedation as expected, she could hear us. “Mama, you hear that? Tara is making a scarf. It’s really pretty.”

A few days later, Sandy had had to return to Duluth, and I was sitting by myself in Mama’s room, missing Sandy, missing Mama, wishing for things to be very, very different. In the Cardiovascular ICU. This was before they moved her and things got so bad. The nurses were kind and patient and full of great stories. They were compassionate and they didn’t mind that the Joyner girls wanted to stay all day with their Mama. They not only allowed it, they encouraged it, never mind what the visiting hours sign said. They even encouraged us to be a part of her care, showing us little things we could do to make her more comfortable.

The scarf was coming along little by little, as I was having a hard time focusing. The skein had become a hot tangled mess. That is when I said, enough is enough and started winding it into this ball. And I sat thinking about how the doctors kept telling us to be patient with Mama not waking up from sedation—even though she’d been taken off the sedation and pain medications. As I untwisted the knotted mess and worked it inch by inch into a ball, waiting on the doctors to come in and give us their latest input, I said to myself through gritted teeth, “Let them come in here and tell ME I’m NOT patient. I’ll show them this mess and see what they think then.” It was just as I finished the ball that they came in with the latest. Once more, be patient, she’ll come around soon enough. I’m pretty sure that’s the day that Dr. A tried to do the Transesophogeal echocardiogram one more time. And Mama bit him. I laughed. I really think he was doing it more for the education of his posse he led around like they were his groupies than for her medical benefit. I should have spoken up. So when she bit him in her unconscious state as he was forcing it down her throat, I couldn’t help but think—go Mama! I tucked that story away to share with her later. With so many others. All those stories I planned to laugh with her over when she returned to us.

I think that might have been the last day I worked on the scarf. The next day Sandy returned to be with us for the weekend. The day after that chaos ensued as Mama’s cousin Miss Betty was admitted to the hospital in Warner Robins. The same day they moved Mama, without giving us a headsup, to the Surgical Trauma ICU—STICU, they called it. STINKU is the polite name we gave it. So the scarf was put away.

I pulled it out today. It’s a rainy day, perfect for reading or knitting or Tunisian crocheting…..and remembering as it turns out. I did one row, saw a missed stitch a couple of rows back, pulled it out and fixed it. I remember loving these colors, thinking it could be a birthday gift, but really feeling like I would keep it. The blues and browns are me and mine. As I sit and hold the ball and the beginnings of the scarf, I remember so much. The stories. The tears. The worries. The laughter. The gift of having my sister on this journey alongside me. The gift of having Mama with us. And of hearing her voice in my head, though she was never able to speak a word to us again.

I don’t know if I can finish this scarf. Silly, isn’t it? I don’t know what finishing it will represent. That the stories have faded? That the pain has lessened? That I don’t miss the sight of her face scrunched up in her “I love you” face language? I can’t answer that. I know I will need another skein to finish it, and for the life of me, I cannot remember where I got the first one. So, for now, I have tucked it away, with the stories and the brokenness. It can wait for another day.