Fire 101

I have decided that when you are living with someone who has a terminal illness like the kind we live with – aka one that does not slowly and visibly take your loved one’s life away or one that requires immediate attention (Like requiring life-impacting medications, operations, or rehabilitation that people can see and feel with you), it creates this strange environment where you know the person is sick – but it’s just so intangible it does not seem real. You don’t get to deal with a little more and a little more each day. You do a whole lot of hurrying up to understand and prepare and stressing out in the beginning and then you just wait. Like Firemen.It’s like we are a house full of well trained Firemen…. playing basketball and cooking meals and prepping equipment and going about your normal day, but knowing any second that the alarm could go off and you will drop everything and get into your big protective suits and head out into the fire… that’s us right now. That’s my family. We live in Firehouse 101.

Now that the initial trauma of our situation has subsided and everyone has finally gotten adjusted and come to terms with “it” folks have stopped asking “what’s going on” and “how are we doing.” And honestly, we have gotten used to the symptoms and the management of it all, too. It almost seems normal. I think that this “normal” is what Firemen must feel. Sure, it’s normal to them (and us). But what they do and the idea of what they might have to do, or what might happen at any moment, that is NOT normal. Not for them, Not for anyone.

Ironically, at this moment in time is when I feel like “yep, now it’s gonna happen.” Like in the movies when the firemen have just sat down to a big meal… that is when the alarm goes off. The moment they let down their guard and try to relax and do something normal for a second – BAMN – there’s that bell! Time to run!

I can see me now – there I will be – running out into the fire. I have all my gear and I am ready. But no matter how prepared you are, no one wants to run into a fire. You do it because you have to. Because it’s your job – and it’s what you have been planning and preparing for. That emergency crisis that kicks everyone back into high gear – but on auto-pilot because you are so prepared it’s like second nature. This is what I know will happen the moment I stop thinking, “ok, now it’s going to happen”. That bell will ring.

I guess it feels like a blessing and a curse to be able to plan for something like this. And I know anyone who has lost someone suddenly might smack me in the face for even saying that. But the ability to know and plan is overwhelming for a “planner” like myself. That is right, I am a list maker and a planner through and through. My friends call me “MoMo” (because I mother everyone) OR “The Cruse Director” because I plan all things plan-able. This is not by accident. I come by this naturally via a long line of planners and over-planners in my family. The only one who can put my list making to shame is my mother. She is “The Master-Planner” (I have not gotten that nickname yet). So of course, something as severe as losing a loved one, aka my hubby, who is my partner and my anchor and keeps my list making manic at bay most days, is gonna depart. Sooner than planned and I cannot plan for it any more than I have, so now we just wait. Like Firemen.

The waiting has been taking me through so many crazy stages of processing over and over again. Like Groundhog Day (the movie not the actual holiday). But recently I have come to a place where I myself, am not even over planning, thinking, processing – I all planned out – I think. It’s a miracle. So now we wait. Like Firemen.

But now the game is – “don’t not think about it” – because the moment you let your guard down you will be like those dumb (usually hunky) saps at the dinner table on the TV – they are leaping from the firehouse table – having to leave their warm dinner and pleasant meal to grow cold and spoiled. Because they let their guard down. They thought, “hey, it’s quiet, it seems normal… let’s have a meal and relax for a moment. Again, the universe’s response to that: BAMN – RUN!

But alas, I am already there, I am the guys sitting down to that hot meal in the firehouse. I am prepared, ready, and trying to move my family forward in some form of normalcy. Is that a terrible idea? Should we sit in the firetruck with our gear on 24/7 OR should we act like real firemen and know that we are prepared for the worse and living as if it is the best.

I guess the thought of starting all over again in crisis mode with the feelings and emotions rushing back in makes me ill. The feeling that must run through those firemen’s veins the moment the bell rings. I can feel it before it even happens. I will be fulfilling something that I have been playing over in my mind again and again for 4 years. I will be there along with all our family and friends (thankfully) who will be rushing back in to help. But I guiltily worry that I will have to manage them, too. And then there will be my daughter, for whom this is all too intangible to grasp now – so she will not believe it until it happens. I will just handle that as it comes because you just never know how children will react. So I have built a zillion contingencies in my mind for her as well. It’s just too much to bear – and it sucks, and it’s terrifying, but it is what it is….I chose to be a fireman for my family. It’s what I do. I’m OK with it – I think. I guess I will find out for sure once that bell rings.

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