Like most stories, you need to know the story that comes before the story to get the story I want to share with you.
My husband and I got married in 1990. We were living in beautiful Rancho Cucamonga, CA, right on old Route 66, now known as Foothill Blvd. Steve was living in Sacramento, CA and for some reason, decided to quit his job. He came down to "visit" us. Yes, in our one-bedroom apartment with two cats (one evil, one shy), my father-in-law "visited" us for three months. When we were newlyweds. When he was unemployed. When we were basically broke. He slept on the couch, about five feet from our bedroom.
Now, I love Steve - really, I do. But he has some personality traits that I had trouble adjusting to. He smoked. Although my husband was still smoking at the time, it was a bit of a shock to have twice as much smoke and ash and odor in the house. And he was fussy about things I didn't really care about: Putting dishes in the dishwasher right after eating. Cleaning the kitchen five minutes after you were done eating. Doing laundry all at once. Vacuuming every day. His spaghetti sauce was "better" than my Prego. His stew was "better" than my soups.
I admit that housekeeping and cooking are not my best skills - never have been. So I no idea what possessed us to agree to living with him in a two-bedroom apartment, because then he actually had a say in what the apartment looked like! But agree we did, and we moved up the street to a new apartment complex. I'm sure we had our ups and downs - time has made them fade away and not hurt so much. But we ended up living with him for the next six or eight months, until his sister decided to move from Sacramento to Indiana.
I guess he decided he wanted to live with her (or near her) and would look for work out there. So, he left and we stayed in that two-bedroom apartment until we left CA for Las Vegas, NV in late 1991. We found a one-bedroom apartment in Las Vegas and set up house there, once again enjoying our "newlywed" status.
Steve had little success in finding a job in Indiana and decided he wanted to come to Vegas and be a dealer. He'd done that before (up in Reno/Tahoe area) and felt it was time to stop driving cement trucks. So guess who landed up on the couch of our one-bedroom apartment again? Yup, Steve. And just like before, we wound up getting a two-bedroom apartment for us to share.
Steve did decide to leave Vegas, and we actually left in May of 1993 when I was pregnant. I can't remember for sure if he went back to California or Indiana - he moved around so much, I stopped keeping track. But basically, for the first three years of our marriage, my husband and I lived with family: about one and a half years with Steve living with us and about six months of living with my parents right before and after our son was born.
And now for the real story I want to share today.
Steve wound up living with his mother in Kansas. She wasn't doing well (after all, she was 92!) and passed away on Nov. 1, 2012. Because he had been living with her, he was very close to her and did not take her death well. He wandered around, visiting his sister in Indiana and then deciding to move to Reno. He got out there probably around the 15th or 16th. He had been complaining for years that he was having troubling breathing, but would never go to a doctor. When he was in Reno, he complained more, saying the elevation was making things worse. He decided to go back to Indiana to live with his sister.
His sister is married and has three kids. The oldest is living on her own, but the other two are still at home. Each of them have babies (or at least, a child under one years old) and there is a live-in girlfriend, too. So he would be basically living in a home with 2 babies, 3 twentysomethings, and his sister and brother-in-law. There really wasn't much space - or peace and quiet.
My husband was worried about him and really wanted him to come to us to stay, even if it was just an extended visit. We'd always joked about how "someday" Steve would be living with us again and it seemed like this was "someday." But Steve resisted coming out. Until he called me and asked for a favor while he was driving.
I knew how anxious my husband was, so I told Steve he should really come out to Connecticut and stay. And apparently that was all he needed, because ten minutes after I got a "maybe - I'll think about it" my husband called and said Steve was on his way.
So, on the week of the 25th, I started to clean out my son's room to set it up as a guest room. I'd told our son for the past year and a half that I wanted to clean his room up (see his mother's cleaning habits up above!) and now it was time to do it. It took all week, while I was editing some great manuscripts, but I got it done in time for him to arrive on Sunday Dec. 2.
He was exhausted from his driving. He'd basically driven 4500 miles in two and a half weeks. He still complained of being short of breath. We had actually made a doctor's appointment for him before he arrived, but within a day, he postponed the doctor's appointment. Too tired to go, he said. We changed it to a week later, because he was still getting winded going up the stairs. Within two days, he said he wanted to put it off until he got his new insurance in place, which would be in effect in January. So he cancelled the doctor's appointment.
My husband had to travel that week, but promised to take him to the casino on Friday. I took Steve out for a birthday dinner at the Outback. He said he'd never been, but was in the mood for a steak. I was surprised at how much he enjoyed the meal. The "One of the best blue cheese dressings" and "good steak" comments almost made me keel over in shock and surprise. My husband came home on Thursday night and Friday they spent the afternoon together at the casino. They had a nice talk on the hour and a half drive up (apparently, my housekeeping skills had not improved over time!) and enjoyed dinner out.
We had to determine what we were going to do about space. Our son was scheduled to come home on Saturday Dec. 15 from college. I had promised he would have his room, which meant we had to find space for Steve. Our original thought was to set him up in the basement for the six weeks of college break, but when he complained it was cold, it was clear that putting him in the unheated basement - even with an electric heater - was not a good idea. So we decided to move our office from the second floor to the basement. And that is what we did on Saturday Dec. 8th.
We were also looking for a bed frame to set up a bed for Steve in the "new" space. That led us to my uncle's house about an hour away. He had one, but wasn't sure if it was the right size. We decided to take a break and go up to check it out. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to work. So we headed back home. On the way, we stopped at Lowes to check out electric heaters. We found one we liked (electric, propane/gas options) but because we didn't have the truck, we decided we'd buy it the next day or two a bit closer to home.
Sunday morning, I skipped church and ran errands with my husband. First up was Staples for some office equipment. We need some mats for the new floor space in the basement, and we picked up a new lamp for my side where it seemed to be a bit dark. We came back home, dropped off the stuff, and chatted with Steve for a few minutes before we took the truck to our local Lowes.
For some reason, our Lowes didn't even stock the heater we had seen the night before. So we had to go to the next one, about 15 minutes farther away. We called Steve to let him know we'd be a bit later than we thought. We also wanted to make sure he'd gotten home without getting lost - he had said he was going to get gas for his car. Everything was fine and off we went. After a bit of an issue at Lowes, we headed back home.
My husband walked in first and saw Steve on the couch. He didn't respond when he said, "Dad." He didn't respond when we walked over to him. He didn't move when my husband was frantically calling 911. My husband was quickly losing any semblance of rational thought. He handed me the phone and I did everything the 911 operator told me to. One of the last rational thoughts my husband had was to call my parents, who live basically in front of us. But he was so upset, my mother actually did not recognize his voice and she had to ask who it was on the phone.
Although it didn't seem like it, it was probably less than five minutes until the ambulance arrived. We had a team of at least five paramedics and two police officers in the house. As they took Steve out, they assured us they had gotten a pulse and heartbeat.
My parents drove us to the hospital. I'm pretty sure neither of us could have driven, so I was glad to have them there. It was just before 2 pm when the first doctor came out and introduced herself. Within fifteen minutes, they had moved us back to a private waiting room in the ER. The doctor would come in periodically to let us know what was going on and ask questions. Because Steve refused to go to a doctor, we knew very little about his actual health, so we felt helpless as we tried to answer the doctor's questions.
By 4 pm, the doctor came back with the results of a CAT scan. Steve had a bleed in his brain. There was nothing to do but take him off the ventilator and wait for the end. One of the most heartbreaking moments was when my husband asked were the bleed was and the doctor told us that it was in the area of the brain that controlled breathing. Although he wouldn't confirm it, he did say that if Steve had gotten to a doctor when he first started having trouble, it was possible that testing would have found a small area and might have been able to fix it. But with the large area they were now seeing, there was nothing they could do.
At 4:45 pm, he was gone.
Although this story isn't particularly uplifting or have a happy ending, we are trying to look at the things we can be happy about. He was at home, with us, for a week. He had family around him. He wasn't driving - either cross-country or on his way to a gas station. He didn't hurt anyone else in a car accident. He wasn't subjected to months and months of doctors, hospitals, and rehab. He didn't suffer or endure lasting pain and discomfort.
So, in light of that and the horrific events in Newtown on Friday (just a few towns away from me), I would encourage you to reach out to your loved ones, even if you don't have a particularly close relationship. Let them know they matter. That you care. That they are important. That they are loved.