Double Vision

Or, How I killed my mother in law. Okay, I didn’t really kill her. All I did was take a nap. I have two versions of how I remember the day. The first is from my point of view. What I know actually happened. It was Sunday morning and N__ had gone shopping. Her mom was upstairs sleeping and I was bored and a little tired so I went up to take my own nap on the other half of the house. About an hour later I heard N__ scream for me from her mom’s room. I ran down the stairs, across the house and up the other stairs. Her mom was sitting on the floor leaning against the bed, covered in vomit. She was not moving. I flew down the stairs and hit the life alert button. A woman spoke and I yelled to send an ambulance and added, I think she’s already dead! I went back up and N__ had laid her on her back and was giving CPR. I saw her chest lower and for a second I thought she was alive! But it was only N__’s breath leaving her mom’s body. I heard pounding on the outside door and the dogs were freaking out. It was the fire department. It only took them minutes to get there but it was too late. The firemen and the cops said they couldn’t come inside until the dogs were secured. I wrangled them up into our bedroom and let the people in. N__ and I sat downstairs on the couch until they brought her mom down on a gurney covered in a white sheet. We had her cremated so the last thing I remember was her on her back and me thinking she was alive.

That was bad enough but the other version I remember is from my mother in law’s point of view. I deduced it from the little I saw while I was in the room and what the paramedics said.

She was sleeping on her back and threw up. She aspirated. She couldn’t breathe. She pulled herself towards the edge of the bed and fell heavy on the floor. (Which I would have heard if I had been awake.) The coroner tried to make us feel better by telling us she was dead when she hit the floor. I knew better. The brain can live for 4 minutes without oxygen. She sat there for 4 minutes struggling to breathe. Conscious of choking to death. I also saw one thing that crushes me every time it goes through my mind. There was a hand print in vomit a knee level on the wall separating our two bedrooms. That is where she used the last of her energy banging on the wall to get my attention. (Which I also would have heard if I were awake.) Both versions of what I remember haunt me here 16 year later but it is the second version that makes me want to die. I am so full of guilt and dread.

Please don’t tell me it wasn’t my fault, “all you did was take a nap.” People have been telling me that for years. It doesn’t help. I know it’s true. But I know CPR. If I had gotten up there in time I would have saved her life. She was only 54.

Last Saturday it hit me and the movie version of it kept playing through my head. I could see it all again over and over. I was hearing voices telling me to kill myself; I deserve to die. I drank to stop it, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t stop crying. I was wailing. I was embarrassed the neighbors were hearing me but it didn’t stop for 3 days. I’ve calmed down but I still see flashes and my sadness is deep. I have nobody to tell about this. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help. Everyone says the same thing, “All you did was take a nap.”

5 thoughts on “Double Vision

  1. I understand to a degree your pain. Thirty two years ago late at night, I felt as if I had to walk up and check on my grandfather. Everything seemed good from the outside. The next morning he was found outside unable to stand up. It was February and he was suffering hypothermia. He also had frost bite in a couple of his toes, which ended up turning into gangrene which ended up killing him. I have carried that with me, it still haunts me. Did I wake him? Was he already out and I didn’t see him? How much of his death is my fault? We carry those questions, that guilt, always. So though different, and your pain is deep and much worse than mine, I understand.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You need not apologize. They are never far away. I only brought it up to say that I do understand. Unless one has faced the pain you have, even in a small degree, it is difficult if not impossible to comprehend and therefore you get the responses that you mentioned.

        Liked by 2 people

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