A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || December 16, 2003 || 1:28 am

The continuation of the continuation.

I hit the ground running. Fifty-four hundred seconds is not a whole lot of time; I was fatigued and addled and morning sickness (which kept my head ringed in porcelain for the first six months of all three pregnancies) had begun to set in with a menacing quickness.

I scrambled, with the help of six or seven friends, to pack enough for an indeterminate stay in California. I packed cans and cans of formula, threw dirty clothes willy-nilly into mindnumblingly huge suitcases, tried to anticipate our every need for a (at minimum) three-week stay.

California. I always hated it, and here was another reason.

The plane was being fired up as we arrived, and from a distance I saw my husband being loaded in: He was a shrouded in ugly wool blankets and ten miles of tubing and was once again deathly pale. I’d love to be able to tell you what kind of plane we took down there, but I forgot to turn my detail detector on; all I could think about was how tired, tired, tired I was and how Biff’s olive skin had gone a sickly light yellow and what was I going to do, how would I ever look at this child I was carrying without crying if her daddy didn’t make it??

We had shot right on past mealtime and of course there was no in-flight service, but the military’s version of a stewardess pulled a tuna sandwich from her bag and fed bits of it to Sam, who was chubby-cheeked and never met a stranger and was in the midst of a grand, grand adventure.

I don’t remember getting there. Not really, anyway. I know we must have, because we were there for the next nine weeks, and I have pictures. I look back now and I marvel; there I was, all of twenty-one and playing grownup. I had all the trappings of an adult life: Baby in arms, one on the way, gravely injured husband, big decisions to make. I was, however, very young and maybe just didn’t know enough to collapse or flip right the fuck out. Step into this moment, please. Okay, now that you’re here, step into the next one. That’s how it all went, no time to think, to assess, just time to breathe and maybe freak out a little bit and hyperventilate before recalling once again that breathing is a necessity.

The first two weeks there, Biff was taken into surgery every day for debridement, more and more of his leg disappearing in bits and snatches, which made him crazy with worry and me mournful with his sense of loss. Despite the fact that the Army had approved a voucher for a rental car, I ran myself ragged between baby and hospital until the Red Cross –contacted by a thoughtful nurse– flew Biff’s mother in to help. There were ugly moments with Biff’s mother, a passive-aggressive tug of war (“fuckyouFUCKYOUFUCKYOU,” I would scream into my naked palms when the baby slept and she was taking her turn at her son’s bedside), but I reckon that God will remind her of all the ugly details of that in due time (if he hasn’t done so already) so that I don’t feel required to.

He –Biff, I mean– was an emotional maelstrom most of the time and he lost an amazing amount of weight. I’d bring things in to him, piles of boardgames and books and outside food, but he spent many listless hours, slack-faced, with the swing-armed six-inch television less than a foot from his face. For some ungodly reason he watched re-runs of ‘Who’s the Boss’ and ‘Cheers’ over and over and over again. I am still tortured, squirming and uncomfortable, when I happen across one of these on teevee today. Their theme songs are like bullets to my skull, dead and crunching and unstoppable with all they bring forward out of the past. Snuggle fabric softener is another no-no. It permeated the laundry room at the temporary quarters that Sam, his grandmother and I shared for that period of time; sickened, I quit buying it once we got back to Alaska.

Sick, sick, sick. I ate soft-scrambled eggs –the only thing I wanted– and threw them up. I smelled my mother-in-law’s cheap AquaNet hairspray (which I begged and begged her not to use for several weeks before she finally quit) and shot toward the toilet, retching. The smell of the asphalt-laden airbase made me sick up any of my stomach’s contents. Everything was nerve-jangling and induced the nausea. Everything. The only pleasure I had during that time, oddly enough, was shopping at the commissary, loading my buggy up with fresh fruits and bagels in the still, somewhat sterile coolness of the place. It was there that I first bought and drank bottled water, a practice which amazed me.

To be put in the rotation for prenatal care, all expectant mothers (and Lordy, did I have expectations, oh yes I did) had to attend maternity classes taught by the OB/GYN staff. The only women there by themselves were those whose husbands were on TDY and little ole me. I went to Scout’s first and second ultrasounds on my own, too. It was a bleak thing to do so.

That time in California was the most alone I have ever felt in all my life. Funny how I didn’t pity myself at all then, but when I look back now it makes me so very sad for that pregnant girl-woman and all she was experiencing. Maybe I wasn’t brave at all, I think now, maybe everybody should have held onto their praise, because maybe I just didn’t know any better, didn’t have the vision to see what this would do to our lives…Biff’s, the children’s, mine.

The day came when he was pronounced well enough to go home, and we moved out of temporary quarters and into an empty hospital room for one night. They put Sam in a big industrial hospital crib with steel railings on the top and bottom that met in the middle with a clang. It looked for all the world like a cage and I was horrified; I was even moreso when Sam grinned wide and trusting at me from behind those thick square bars which were impossibly silver and shiny.

We were greeted warmly by our friends and church family; our every need was met and then some. Biff’s anxiety and depression over what the future may hold intensified, as did his manic tendencies, and this put an even greater strain on an already-limping marriage. We loved one another fiercely, but we had been rough on one another throughout the course of our short history. We circled one another like wary, whipped dogs.

All that time in the military and no one ever suggested he go seek counseling. That’s not what good soldiers do; the notion is never entertained. Part of me is wildly saddened by this while part of me comprehends fully.

Time marched on and so did we; in May I gave birth to famously wonderful Scout, who came out so girly and tender that she just about glowed. We stayed so busy that I hadn’t even thought to ask after the Bradleys and what became of their son. Did he live? Did he recover, or did he become a vegetable, as was predicted by many that said, “He may survive, but…”?

It haunts me. I want to know if he lived, and if he did, did he live??

Some six months after Scouty was born, I was looking up the meaning to names, and I was called up short by the interpretation of her full name, something that was done quite unintentionally. It means “Pure Light”, and my breath caught in my throat as I read that. Pure light.

“A light in all this fog,” was what had been said.

God bless you, Bradley family, wherever you are. I remember you, acutely and painfully, and I pray that you are well.

:: scout and her daddy, june ‘93 ::

10 worked it out »

  1. Man.

  2. Sgt. Mac 12.16.2003

    You know we are all trying to come up with something to help out your TROUT boy.

    Perhaps, this story, written out on paper, would show the TROUTboy how one overcomes adversity… hope, prayer, and life beyond tragedy….

  3. laura 12.16.2003

    She knew. How the heck did she know?

  4. waistdog 12.16.2003

    Instead of the elusive third eye……Scout has a smile on her forehead.

    A sign of Pure Light, if I’ve ever seen one.

  5. Jettomatika 12.16.2003

    Awesome that you mention that, waisty….it was the funniest thing: when she was wee-tiny, it was like her entire scalp was fixed to her skull at that specific spot. The skin everywhere else moved, but right there it just….stayed immobile.

    Made her look like a little old man.

  6. sugarmama 12.16.2003

    Great story.

  7. Kandy 12.16.2003

    Wow, what a great storyteller you are. You have an amazing gift, dear Jett. Thank you.

    My nephew looked like a little ol’ man when he was firstborn too, my B-I-L would call him Murray. Murray the accountant.

  8. Jettomatika 12.16.2003

    …and Laura, I don’t know. Crazy shit like that happens to me all the time. The oddest part is that the spouse picked her first name and I picked her middling one.

  9. yvonne 12.17.2003

    that picture just made me cry.

  10. Jettomatika 12.19.2003

    It’s one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken, despite the lack of quality equipment and training.


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