February 6, 2008 started out like any other Wednesday with James and I going through our routines of getting ready for work. With neither of us being morning people, conversation was minimal and there were only a few minutes in which we were both up and moving around.
The day was pretty uneventful for the most part. We both went to work like normal. I came home like normal and got ready to spend some time on the NordicTrack, like normal. The commute wasn't normal for James. There had been an accident on the Glenn Jackson bridge earlier in the day, and as happens when there is an accident on one of the bridges, traffic was a mess. He decided to pull off the freeway and find a place to hangout for awhile until traffic cleared up.
I told him that my boss had told me that if you registered Independent, you couldn't vote in the primary. James had been thinking about changing his party affiliation from Republican and didn't know if he would be able to vote in the primary if he did.
While we talked, I was trying to fast-forward my tape to the right spot so I could watch "General Hospital" while I exercised. He told me he thought he would be home around 7:30. I told him I wouldn't be here when he got home pausing after I said it because I realized I had fast-forwarded the tape too far.
"That's just temporary, right?" I thought that was cute-I was the one who was always insecure about him leaving, not the other way around.
"Of course it is," I told him. "The Family History Center closes at 9:00." I was going to review some microfilms I had ordered with birth records of the branch of my family I refer to as "the bunnies," as that ancestor and his wives averaged about one kid a year for close to 20 years.
"I thought you were telling me you were sick of this going out shit and you were leaving," he said. He rarely went out after work-only if traffic was bad or he was meeting his friend who stood him up more often than not.
I laughed and told him that would be the dogs and I wouldn't be here when he got home. We talked for a minute or two more and hung up. That was the last time I ever heard his voice. I recorded our outgoing voicemail message and his cell phone message was the generic one that comes with the phone. God, what I wouldn't give to hear his voice right now.
Just before I left for the History Center, I gave him a call to let him know I was leaving. He didn't answer, which I thought was odd, but I also thought he could be somewhere loud and didn't hear his phone ring. I told him there was something else I needed to tell him but couldn't remember. I hung up only to call him right back to tell him I remembered that I was going to tell him I had checked KATU's traffic cameras and it was still pretty messed up so he should stay in Portland a bit longer. In looking at his cell phone log, I am certain he got my messages not long before he died.
At 7:23, my phone rang. The caller ID said it was James. I thought it was weird he was calling me at the Family History Center. Even though it isn't one, I tend to think of it like a library. I answered it "Hi Honey."
The voice on the other end wasn't James. It was a strange man who said the 6 words I will probably never forget: "Does your husband drive a BMW?" The connection was bad. He had to repeat himself a few times during the ensuing conversation.
I was told that James had been in an accident on the Glenn Jackson Bridge near Government Island. It appeared he had a seizure and was unconscious. He had crossed 3 lanes of traffic and hit two other cars; the other drivers were okay. They were taking him to Southwest Medical Center. The caller asked if I knew where that was. I said I did and asked who he was. He said he was just someone who had seen the accident and found James' phone in the console and called ICE.
I don't know why, but I immediately called the wife of James' best friend. I told her that I needed to get ahold of her husband because James had been in an accident and I didn't have his number. She said she would call him for me and said she was near the hospital and would meet me there.
The volunteer at the Family History Center told me she would put my film back for me and to just go. I told her I didn't know if they would tell me anything because we were just engaged-we weren't family. She said it worked in "While You Were Sleeping," which happens to be one of my favorite movies. I said I would just tell them I was his wife. I remember thinking "Oh God. I just lied in a church."
I had the presence of mind to stop at home and get the prescription James was taking for acid reflux beause I knew they were going to ask. I don't know how I got to the hospital in one piece. Everyone was driving so slow. On my way, a little voice told me I was too late-he was gone.
My friend was waiting when I got there. Her husband was stuck in traffic-not knowing it was the accident James caused that was preventing him from getting to the hospital. I said I was going to be sick. She led me to the water fountain. I didn't know at the time she was there when they brought James in. She already knew it was bad.
They came and took us to the little room. With my limited hospital experience, I didn't know this was a bad thing. I just thought it was great I didn't have to sit in the ER with all the sick people. The ER doc came in and happily told me James had been down for 40 minutes. I looked at my friend and said "that's too long.' By the time I saw him, it had been almost 50 minutes. I grabbed his hand and told him if he was still there, he needed to come back to me and he needed to do it RIGHT NOW. His hand was already cold.
They were still doing CPR. I was led out of the room and I think had to give permission for them to stop giving CPR. I know I felt guilty about that for quite some time-that even though I knew his brain had been without oxygen for too long, I gave up too soon.
The chaplain did last rites at my request. I remember asking if he was a real priest and apologizing because I kept swearing. I called my brother first. Then I called his cousin so she could go tell his mother. It wasn't news to be delivered over the phone. I remember leaving a trail of warming blankets between the room James was in and the bad news room. I remember being left alone with James and saying to him "if you really didn't want to get married, you just shouldn't have asked." I remember asking if I had to take off my ring. Apparently, I asked pretty much everyone that-which I don't remember. I remember wanting to yank the breathing tube out of his mouth. And I remember asking if I could take off his watch. I don't know why, but it was very important that I have that. I remember peeking to see if he was completely naked-and feeling violated that he was. Those "parts" were for my viewing pleasure-not the free world's! I remember I kept kissing his forehead over and over. I remember he was already starting to turn purple. I remember not wanting to leave but knowing I had to. My friend drove me home around 10:00. I remember getting home and calling my boss to tell him I wouldn't be in the next day.
Two years. I didn't even think I would survive two days. But here I am still standing. I miss him so much. I miss our life and I miss the woman I used to be. I miss being in love and I miss someone being in love with me. I hate this life. Two years. It feels like a lifetime ago and like yesterday. I feel the same sickness this morning that I felt then. Two years. 731 days. Wow. I will make it through today. I will make it through tomorrow as well. I can do this. At least I think I can.