My husband had rotator-cuff surgery on an outpatient basis. On the second day that he was home, he lost consciousness when I took off the surgical bandage. Not armed with enough medical knowledge, I felt scared for him and didn’t know what to do. My hands shook as I frantically held him upright in the chair and called out his name. Later, after my husband had regained consciousness, we laughed. He fainted because the bandage came off with most of his chest hairs.
Nonetheless, that inadequate feeling I had with my husband that day reminded me of how I felt when I found my father. I felt helpless, afraid, and called out his name. After my husband’s bandages were changed, I lost myself in a ton of housework.
Even before I saw my father’s body, I knew something wasn’t right. His garage was strangely quiet. The old, manual garage-door was lowered too much; the dog tied-up outside the door looked too sad. I had a dozen questions running inside my head. Where was he—on a walk? Why hadn’t he taken his dog? As if reacting to a premonition, my heart pounded when I pulled up the door. My hands shook and time seemed to stop. When I stepped inside, I called out, “Daddy.” That one word echoed off the walls of my mind since he died.
My mother and sister said I took control that day, arranged things. It was my way of fighting off what happened to me in that garage. I came up against the core of what was horribly uncontrollable; my mind disassociated from reality. Later, I went on auto-pilot and made a to-do list. Organizing, making calls, watching after my mother as if she were my only concern—all that was an effort to stop feeling helpless. I actually felt heartless because I couldn’t feel anything, but I wasn’t. I was just in shock. I was a vulnerable adult-child hiding behind tasks and to-do lists.
Sometimes just listening to my own breath brings me to the realization that many things are uncontrollable. I do not have to be afraid of everything that I can’t control. If I hold my breath, mostly I will just pass out and breathe again.