I've never been one "lost for words." Usually when I've been this quiet on the blog it means I'm busying plaguing myself with the guilt associated with writing a blog, and having your readers ask you, "Where have you been?" Lately however, I'm the one who has been asking myself that question. Seriously Ali, where have you been? After two weeks in contemplative silence I think I'm finally ready to answer that question.
You may have heard me speak of my mom. Those of you that frequent the cafe know her as The Strata Queen, the lady responsible for those intricate fruit garnishes on the weekend, that slow-baked banana cake and rosemary-mushroom gravy, and for spoiling your dogs while you wait in line to reach the counter.
Me? I know her as both my right and left hand. No, literally: We have the same hands. A fact I first became aware of when I was a child, clutching her hand as we crossed the street, as a teenager, when I could barely distinguish between the curvature of our knuckles and the lines in our palms, then later in my 20's, when I began developing recognizable signs of early arthritis, and then 16 days ago, as I interlaced my fingers through hers as she lay in a hospital bed, unconscious in McMinnville's Willamette Valley Hospital's ICU.
You see, 16 days ago around dinnertime my mom suffered cardiac arrest. Not once, but twice.
She was in McMinnville, on the clock at her other day job, the job she has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to as the director of a program that inspires and supports at-risk youth. A job that requires her to pack up her Portland life every summer and move down to Linfield College's campus (to eat, sleep, and live in the college dorms) for her Summer Program. When we were younger, my sister and I were allowed to move with her. We would all wave and kiss our Dad, four cats, and one dog goodbye, pile into the car, and head to wine country to live with my mom, 8 college-age counselors, and 60 high school kids. Once we got older and our summer schedules no longer permitted 8 week stays, Mom was forced to make the trek by herself, a task she's been diligently taking on alone for the past 30 years.
Sixteen days ago, when I first received the phone call from my sister who was in NYC at the time, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Despite her attempts to keep her voice steady, there was a shrill uneasiness, and most troubling, a panicked eerie attempt to conceal just how bad things were. All I heard was, "Ali, Mom had a heart attack." I can hardly remember handing the phone over to Evan, who was promptly instructed by my sister to get us the car and on the road to make the hour's drive to the valley's hospital. She told us she would be there as soon as she could get a flight.
At this point neither my sister, Evan or I knew whether my mom was alive or dead. On the car ride to the hospital I couldn't stop thinking about Michael Jackson, who had been reported dead, having suffered from a heart attack just hours prior to my mom dropping on the cafeteria floor in front of dozens of witnesses. I wish to highlight this fact not to be dramatic, but because it is because she was in this very public place that my mom survived. You see, the cafeteria was the one location on campus that had access to a defibrillator, the one applied by a witness on the scene, that shocked my mom's heart, that saved my mom's life. Turns out my mom didn't just have a heart attack. She suffered and survived a cardiac arrest, which we have been told less than 5% actually manage.
I can only speak about this now, or even think about speaking about this now because four days ago we were finally able to take my mom home. After spending 4 nights in McMinnville's ICU, coming in and out of a sedative coma, she was finally stable enough to be transferred by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital in NW Portland. After a week of floating between this hospital's ICU and Intermediate Care Unit, she was finally deemed well enough to bring home, to her own house, to her own bed.
Needless to say this event has created quite the ripple effect. My family is currently trying to digest the biggest challenge we have yet to be served in our lives, and our cafe is learning how to cope without its "Mom." It has become abundantly clear that nothing will ever be the same again, a fact we are simultaneously trying to accept and be grateful for.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:41 PM