I awoke at 4:41 am this morning. Tears coursing down my cheeks, feeling confused and sad. After a moment, it comes to me. My mind has gone, in sleep, where I have refused to tread for months. Back to that night in August.
It had been a long and painful day. I did all I could to care for everyone around me. Touching each and everyone of them while they held him. On their arm, elbow, shoulder. Handing out hugs and tissues as needed. After everyone had gone to bed I was unable to sleep. I sat outside on the little patio. I don’t know what I did or thought, but hours ticked by. Then suddenly it hits me.
I call Nanny and wake her up, sobbing into the phone, “I forgot to say goodbye. I was so busy taking care of everyone, I didn’t take my moment.” Not knowing what to say, she wakes my mother and puts her on the phone too. I am inconsolable. “I just need to hold him for a bit. To look under that cap at his hair. To count his fingers and toes. To kiss his cheeks. I forgot to say goodbye.” They remind me the nurse said they would keep Collin near by until morning in case the parents wanted to see him again and to call the desk to ask if I can come see him
I think it is after midnight. I speak with the nurses at the main station, I am crying and trying to explain. I sound a bit over the edge of sanity, even to myself. But he has already been taken downstairs. I will have to talk to security. I am transferred and I try again to explain my needs, my desperation. The tone of his voice makes me know I am on the other side of the sanity line. He needs to talk to the charge nurse. They will call me back.
My torrent of grief and pain and fear begins to subside while I wait. It takes so long for the hospital to call me back that I become sure they are trying to find someone with a nice ‘special’ jacket to come pick me up. I have frightened my daughter and my mother. I probably have frightened the nurses too. The charge nurse calls back. There are rules, blah, blah, can I wait till morning (no he will be too cold, I think, but I don’t say-as I am starting to get a handle on my crazy now) and they would have to wake the parents for permission. No. No. I don’t want that. I am fine. I am okay. I was just having a moment. I am over it now I tell them all.
The hours wind by. I clean. I fold laundry. I listen to music. I cry alone. I go outside around 4:40 am to take out the garbage. Six feet from the parking lot I freeze. Here in the city, in the middle of a parking lot, is a coyote. Only a few feet from me, he stops and stares. Actually we stare, our eyes locked. The coyote is young, lean and wiry. His fur reflects the bright moonlight and his eyes are deep and dark. More moments pass as I feel like I am missing something, not hearing something, and then he lowers his head and walks slowly away. “Wait. Stop.” I say it out loud, without thinking. The raw sound spooks the coyote and he starts to lope across the lot. I run after him, across the street and through another lot. I can hear his nails ticking on the asphalt, but I can’t see him anywhere. I stop and turn around, seeking in the dark corners. “Wait, don’t go. Where are you?” No answer, I can’t hear him anymore.
And now here I am again. A different night, a different house, a different porch, but not so different. I am back in that moment again and I realize I failed myself. I didn’t remember to take care of me. In the light of day it has seemed bearable. But the quiet and peace of the night reveals the truth.
I forgot to say goodbye.