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It was one morning in May, 2010 when I get a panic phone call from my mother. My mother is an undeclared Ice Queen and always reserved. For her to call me crying and upset brought the chill cold fingers of fear around my heart. Did dad die?

I couldn’t think of it but I couldn’t understand what mom was hollering about either. I gathered myself and calmly told her that I would be right over. I only lived a mile down the road. When I arrived at their house I could hear my mother hollering and my father, who had lost his ability to speak but he could grunt in some twisted yelling/panic conversation. I ran into the master bedroom where all the commotion was and my mother is crying, her face contorted in a painful kind of helplessness.

“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” “I can’t get your father out of the bathroom! I told him to use the pan but he REFUSED and now I can’t get him out of there.” “Okay. Did he fall in the shower – is he on the floor?” “NO,” she wailed, “he’s on the toilet and he won’t let me help him up! I can’t help him! I don’t want him to fall. And HE’S FIGHTING ME!” I walked into the bathroom and see dad sitting there. His eyes were spitting mad because his body was giving up on him. “Mom and I are going to help you up and back to bed, okay?”

We tried pulling him up but he fought back. It clicked – his legs aren’t going to support himself. With my mother screaming at him and my father howling with unimaginable indignation I let go of his arm and yelled at them both to shut up. I kicked mom out of the bathroom and turned my attention to dad.

He always had a strong front for my mom – but whenever we talked he would confide in me.
Once mom left the room I saw the defeat in his eyes. But I was NOT going to give up.

Straight off I said, “Dad – I can’t carry you and I’m not going to try but I am going to put you on my back.” I turned around and presented my back and squatted so he could get leverage on my shoulders.
Holding his arms I stood back up and he was able to get on his feet. He got nervous because he started pulling at me, choking me like a panicked drowning man.

Very calmly I said, “Dad. DAD! If you pull me we will both fall down. Don’t fight – just lean on my back. If you work with me we’ll get you to bed. You have to trust me. I will never drop you but you have to help me. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

His grasp loosened and I was able to leverage his armpits over my shoulders while he rested on me. “Now one step at a time, okay?”

22 steps later, with my mother clucking, wiping him up, and pulling up his sweatpants the entire way, we finally got him settled in. He was exhausted. With a kiss on his forehead I said, “See? I told you I wouldn’t drop you.”

I couldn’t stay longer than that. The adrenaline had left my body and I didn’t want to let him see how upset and shaken I was. The man who used to toss me into the air and catch me; who taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car; who insisted I learn how to change a tire and replace a toilet was too weak to walk or wipe himself. I cried for the longest mile drive I have ever taken. When I got home I hid under my bed covers and bawled like a baby. It was the last time my dad got out of that bed – thus began the business of dying.

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It was the morning of September 11, 2001 – a morning like most others.  At the time, I was divorced with three small children and living with my parents.  That morning, I put my oldest on the school bus and began to prepare breakfast for the two little ones.

Normally, I do not watch television.  I happened to be flipping the channels when I saw the newscasters giving their daily offering when in the background I heard a loud BOOM and saw smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers.

I saw the confusion as the reporters turned in their seats from atop the…  I think it was the Chrysler Building.  There was speculation – was it a small plane that hit the building?  In the back of my head I knew it was much bigger.  Small cessnas did not make such a BOOM.  Reports began flying in – but no one knew what was really going on.  Distant sirens could be heard from the street through the television.

Suddenly, from the right of the TV screen I saw another plane.  It was strangely low in the sky.  And on live television I saw it fly into the other building.  I don’t remember breathing but I remember being very confused.  WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Close ups of the devastation started coming over the tube as cameras were zooming in.  From afar I saw the Twin Towers on fire.  Strangely, I felt a sense of pride that they withstood such a beating!

Word came across:  they were passenger planes.  I was transfixed on the TV.  I could feel my heart beating like a dull thud in my chest.  Tragic.  Terrible.  Beyond Words.  My sole focus remained on The Towers.  They were still standing.  We’re going to be okay.

But then it started to crumble…  Tower Two was tumbling down!  In my head, all I could do was scream silently.  Screaming out loud would have scared my babies.  One tower was left.  Goddammit.  We still had one…until that too began to crumble.

I fell to the floor.  No.  NO.  NOOO!!!

It was all I could repeat.

I reached for the phone and called my father’s office.  He commuted to New York City every morning, taking NJ Transit to the PATH trains; his last stop – the basement of the World Trade Center.  From there he usually walked about six blocks to his office building.  Oh fuck!  Where’s dad?  Where’s my dad?!

Phone lines were busy.  No one was getting through – not even to make a local call.  I tried desperately to call into the city – reach my father.

Newscasts showed falling debris prior to the building collapses – but it wasn’t debris.  No…  They were PEOPLE.  People who would rather jump to their death than burn in the fire.

The television was in an incessant loop:  the impact, the smoke and fire, the rumble of the earth; the clouds of smoke and ash; debris and people falling.  Buildings gone.  People covered in ash clawing their way out of the city…and I still had not heard from my father.  I was glued to the television.  Was he one of the pasty people, shell-shocked and trying to make sense of the inconceivable?

Back at home, people drove to school to pick up their children – a need to be closer to them because there was going to be bad news – not on a national level – but a real, personal level.  A whole lot of loved ones were not coming home again.

My town is 40 miles north of New York City.  Our community is laced with NYC Firefighters, EMTs and Police, doctors, nurses, military, white and blue collar workers – we have them all.

With children close to our breast, we all waited for news; waited for the phone lines to clear up and make a connection.  Still there was nothing.

It was after 5 PM.  My father had borrowed a stranger’s cellphone to tell us he was okay.  I say “stranger” loosely because everyone in the city that day became brothers and sisters.

I was so relieved to hear from dad that I threatened to kill him.  Ha!  Why do we do that? 

He was one of thousands that walked to the ferry boats transporting them to the Jersey side.  Transportation out of the city was still being figured out – but he was safe and he would be home soon.  Soon was about midnight.

I was lucky.  My father came home that day – but I will never forget, for weeks to come, the hundreds of obituaries that filled our newspaper – all local men and women – all innocent people who went to work like any other day.

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In our small town of people, we lost five firefighters.  The picture is the Washingtonville Five Memorial.  In addition to the granite memorial of the 5 firefighters, there are memorial bricks laid in the shape of a Maltese cross (the fireman’s cross), and a “Walkway of Heroes” with messages from loved ones and an aggrieved community.

The five firefighters are:  Battalion Chief Dennis Devlin; Lt. Glenn Perry; firefighters: Robert Hamilton, Gerard Nevins, and Mark Whitford.

We Will NEVER Forget

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This was originally written on August 12, 2014.  A year has passed and I still feel the same way, though maybe not so brash now.  Time has since passed and I’m more saddened, I think.  Truth is: I miss him – his movies, his humor, his bipolar ways.  Anyway…  These were my thoughts from 2014.

~ Meredith

***

YOU ONLY NEEDED ONE MORE MOMENT

I hate to say this but I am PISSED OFF to hear about the apparent suicide of actor Robin Williams. I know he had problems – but we all do!

I have dealt with depression, anxiety, death in the family, Asperger’s, divorce, helplessness, hopelessness and any and whatever deep, dark, scary place you can think of. I’ve had days when my only goal was to shower and sometimes I couldn’t even accomplish that!

There were days when I wished my car would blow a tire and throw me over a ledge, or pray a lightning bolt struck me dead, or maybe I would trip in the path of an oncoming train. I’ve thought those things. I PRAYED FOR THEM. But I would NEVER go out of my way to do myself in.

I may be cheerful in my writing (sometimes) but I fight the dark – not every day – but I fight it back a lot!

I have known too many people – personally known these people – who have taken their own life.

Well… it’s SELFISH!

S * E * L * F * I * S * H

What makes them so special that they decide to give up this precious thing called life? It was a long battle? Damn right it is! But anything worth anything is worth fighting for!

Toss away a mother’s sacrifice of body, blood, and worry? They are only thinking about themselves. They cannot look beyond the dark and know that there are people who CARE. Who want to be there for them. Who indeed ARE THERE for them.

There’s no reset button once you end your life! Sometimes the only thing you can do is hold on long enough for one more moment. Just ONE! It could be the ONE thing or moment that saves you – the ONE thing that brings life and hope back to your dark world. But if you cut your life short you will never know it, feel it, touch it, taste it. Why? Because you’re gone.

My dad would have given ANYTHING to live out the rest of your given days, Robin Williams. But cancer took him away. What was your excuse?

So, I could write a tribute – an obituary – an ode to Robin Williams. I am not going to because I’m pissed, Robin Williams, that you gave up and couldn’t hold out for one more moment.

Another death to add to this day in History, August 11, 2014

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Like gravity, it is so easy to let your emotions and day-to-day problems bring you down. It takes effort to climb a hill and it also takes some effort to lift your spirits! Trust me, I know! I’ve a proclivity to depression and sometimes it seems easier to sleep the day away. Don’t waste another minute of your life in the dark place.

Here are 5 things you can do to feel instantly better:

  1. Say “Thank You” out loud. What have you got to be thankful about? It doesn’t matter. If you’re feeling blue then it’s hard to recognize the blessings around you. Just say “Thank You” out loud and you will instantly feel better. Don’t believe me? Just try it.
  2. Smile. Yeah, yeah – you might not have anything to smile about. Whatever. Just do it anyway. The physical manifestation of a smile helps lift your spirits. Just let those lips fight gravity and turn up; flash those dimples (if you have them); lift your eyebrows; scrunch your cheeks and eyes and give yourself a winning smile. Don’t show too much teeth and don’t grind them either. The physical uplifting of your face will help you feel better.
  3. Just say “Ahhhh!” No, it’s not the screaming kind. This is one of my favorite vocal exercises. Take a deep belly breath. Starting with your highest note say a big “Ahhhh!” like a big sigh or yawn with falling pitch (highest note to lowest note). The influx of air will really get your blood moving.
  4. Do something ridiculous. I am admittedly a very conservative person when it comes to public appearances. The last thing I want to do is something ridiculous but when you get over that fear and realize that you might be amusing someone else then it’s not so bad. Whatever you think might be ridiculous is something you can and should do. It could be a quick skip; a goofy “end zone” dance; singing a silly commercial jingle, or blowing bubbles in your chocolate milk.
  5. Go for a walk. There is something about your feet hitting pavement or walking a trail that uplifts the spirit. It gets you moving first of all. But it also gives you time to think, plan, debate with yourself…whatever floats through your mind. The point is, you are out of bed and getting exercise. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. Even a short five minute trip around the block is better than nothing and you’ll feel better for it.

Now get out of the dumps and get moving. It’s a beautiful day!

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