The open house on Saturday came off without a hitch. Other than Christy and I having to make up a reason that our youngest daughter was not at our oldest daughter’s open house, of course. We told everyone she was spending a few days being monitored at the hospital for a reaction she had to some medication. Close enough.
After the open house it was time to tell Brittany and Kyra. We had been dreading this moment, but at the same time, it felt wrong for them to have not known all along. We shared the news, and there was much weeping and fear. Finally our whole family set out for the hospital. For the first time family members other than me would see Anna like this.
It was as awkward a scene as any I can remember. Christy was masterful. She immediately moved towards Anna, embraced her, and whispered to her again and again, “This does not define you. This is not who you are. You are our baby. You are dearly loved. This will not define you.”
Brittany stood frozen in the corner. “You can come up here and stand by her bed, sweetie” I invited.
“No I can’t. If I get any closer I’ll hit her,” Brit said through clenched teeth.
Later Anna would tell me that she knew mom would comfort her, and that Brittany would be angry (as we all were), but she couldn’t have prepared for Kyra’s response. Kyra, without saying a word, approached the bed, took Anna’s hand in hers and, staring off into space, quietly weeped. In that moment, Anna said, she was finally able to see how heartbroken we all were, Brittany in her anger, Christy in the desire that Anna be okay, and me in my constant presence and vigilance. We would all feel uneasy for quite a while anytime Anna was out of our sight. There are traces of this still today.
The rest of the family left after not too long and it was just Anna and me again. She began crying and I don’t think she stopped for several hours. She cried out her fear, her regrets, her frustration with herself, her embarrassment, and pretty much everything else. At last I got to do what I had been wanting to do all along — just hold my girl. The sobs kept coming. I reached over and grabbed one of those super thin hospital “Kleenex,” and said, “Here honey. Try this woefully inadequate tissue.” And — for the first time — laughter. We both laughed and laughed, even as we were both still crying. It felt so good to hold my little girl, to hear her talk openly about how she was feeling, to see her cry and have emotion over it, to hear her tell me she was so sorry, and to laugh with her. It felt like the first time we had ever laughed in our lives. It hadn’t even been 36 hours since we left for the hospital. It seemed like weeks.
Meanwhile life still went on. Our dear friend Beth was in the same hospital that week being diagnosed with leukemia, so I’d do twelve hours with Anna then stop in and sit with Beth for a while before heading for home to attend to some things there. Tenants were supposed to be out of our rental house by July 1 so we could post it for sale but they called to inform us that they were going to be staying longer. It quickly got nasty despite our pleading with them and telling them we were in the hospital with a critically ill child. Could we please have a few days before getting into this? No matter — we had to do battle over it right then, and all through the next week. Our lives felt torn on nearly all fronts.
When Anna was sufficiently detoxed and stabilized she was moved off the PICU and into a regular room. Here she remained for another two days or so. That is when Christy and I began consults with the hospital social workers and psychologists about what our next steps would be. Anna was out of physical danger from her overdose, but we all believed she was still a danger to herself. It was encouraging that she was sharing her thoughts and feelings openly and with seeming honesty. But of course Anna had always seemed basically honest before. We couldn’t get our bearings now on whether or not to believe anything she said. Although we deeply wanted — needed — to believe her reassurances that she was okay, something told us caution was the best approach.