Last Half-day of Normal

March 14th, 2008 was a Friday. I can’t recall with any real detail what took place in the hours between 7am and roughly 4:30 pm

Based on the simple monotony of life and the even more predictable routine of how I like my life to flow, I’m going to assume it looked a bit like this:

6:30 am—Jamey woke up, went downstairs and put on a pot of coffee(these were pre-Keuirg days—or if it did exist, we weren’t trendy enough to own one yet).

6:45–Caeley woke up, grumpily stumbled downstairs with a rat’s nest of hair and crusty eyes, dragging Baby Rabie along with her(the bedraggled, frayed and quite honestly filthy stuffed animal she still has in her bed today). She was likely also sucking her thumb.

7:00–I probably forced myself out of bed, knowing Jamey would be leaving for work soon so we’d have to do the child-rearing handoff.

7:10/7:-15-ish—Jamey would leave for work at Commerce Bank(which yes, was still Commerce technically, but was in the middle of being taken over by the Neighbors to the North at TD Bank).

7:30-ish to 9–Ok, my timeline starts getting a bit hazy here. I know Caeley was in Pre-K 4 and went to school Mon, Wed and Fri. I think she went from either 8 or 9 to 12. So at some point, I got her ready for school(ok, in reality she got herself ready which explains why she looks like a street urchin in all of her lower grade pictures).

9:00-ish, maybe—this is where creative license steps in, but I’m going to assume I dropped her off at preschool, then stopped off at the Wawa for a coffee—and probably had a conversation with Terri, one of the Wawa “Warristas” I’d often talk to.

9:30-4:30–Again, creative license here. I probably met up with a bunch of my “girlfriends” at a local cafe to “catch up”. Then I attended spin class. Then I went to my painting class. Then hot yoga(did that even exist in 2008)?Then I met with my Mandarin private tutor.

Ok, fine. I probably went home and did nothing or maybe went food shopping.

I do remember being excited since Jamey was coming home from work early for a doctor’s appointment.

I always liked when he came home early because it broke up the monotony of the day.

And Caeley was always thrilled when she wasn’t stuck staring at my ugly mug when she got home from class.

I don’t remember what time his appointment was. Let’s say 3 pm. It was a routine appointment to refill a prescription for his anti-depressant.

It turned into much, much more than that.

For about 6 months leading up to “The Day”, he’d been having vague symptoms on and off…random headaches, fatigue, occasional dizziness, some anxiety—nothing debilitating, but enough that it was noticeable to him and worrisome to me(but, frankly, there’s little in life that isn’t worrisome to me).

He’d seen a few specialists and had a series of tests. The cardiologist ruled out any heart issues. The ENT doc diagnosed him with benign positional vertigo and told him the symptoms would go away. Eventually.

His primary doc increased his antidepressant believing most of his symptoms to be “in his head”(well, she was right there).

Work was stressful. Commerce was merging with TD and he’d been traveling a lot more between home and Toronto in anticipation of the merger.

So his symptoms were due to stress and vertigo.

Well, until about 8:30/9-ish, March 14th 2008 at least.

He came home from work early for his appointment. I remember it being a nice enough day, sunny. I greeted him by his car in the front yard when he pulled in. Maybe I was doing yard work and outside already? I won’t commit to that, but let’s make that a reality here.

I remember him casually mentioning that something odd had happened at work that morning.

He’d been feeling a little off at his desk, so he’d gotten up to walk around a bit. He noticed a cardinal in the trees out the window near his office. He moved closer to the window to look at it.

Next thing he remembered, he was on the floor, staring up at the looking-down faces of several concerned co-workers.

He had passed out/fainted(in hindsight, probably had a seizure).

In true Jamey fashion, he got up, went back to work and drove home—never making mention of it until I met him in the driveway.

He told me about the “kind of weird” thing that had happened at work then asked me if I thought he should bother mentioning it to his doc when he saw her.

“Ummmm….yes?” is probably the PG version of what my response was.

He went to his appointment and came home right before I left to take Caeley to her class at karate.

He told me “not to get upset” and that his doctor was nearly 100% certain it’s nothing but that she had written him a script for an brain MRI. And she’d encouraged him to make an appointment sooner rather than later, just to rule anything out with his brain.

He got an appointment that very evening-I want to say 5-ish.

I took Caeley to karate for her 4:30 Mini Ninjas class.

Around 5:30-ish, Jamey called for the first time telling me he was finished and that he was going to call Joe’s(our local pizza place) and place an order for a half-plain, half-mushroom pie. He kindly ordered me mushroom, even though he absolutely despised the fungi. He was content to pick them off.

It was a Friday in Lent, so no meat of course.

He also asked me if I could remember the name of the beer we’d had at The Landmark(local restaurant) the other week. They were promoting two potential new Sam Adams beers and we’d both sampled(and liked) one of them.

“Irish Red”, I told him. He said he’d pick up a 6 pack if he could find one.

Around 6-ish, he called back, asking if I’d called Joe’s yet or not because he was driving past a different pizza place and might just pick it up there.

I reminded him he said he’d call but that I could call if he hadn’t yet. He laughed and said he’d just remembered that he had actually called and not to bother.

That’s odd, I thought, but let it slide.

About 30 minutes later, he called again, telling me he’d gotten lost. To be fair, the MRI place isn’t right down the road and there are some circuitous backroads getting there.

“But I’m the one horrible with directions, not Jamey.”

Again, odd, but I let it slide.

He eventually made it home, pizza and beer in tow.

We set up our tray tables in front of the TV, sat down on the couch, and started to eat our pizza like almost every other Friday night.

What we didn’t know was that that routine, comfortable, albeit boring normality was soon-to-be interrupted.

Maybe 8/8:30-ish, Jamey’s phone rang. I think it was the MRI place but it might have been his primary care doc—I honestly don’t remember.

Whomever it was, the person instructed Jamey to come back to the imagining center, pick up his slides, and head to the nearest ER.

This is where things begin to get fuzzy. I’m pretty sure Jamey called his brother, Steve, and told him what the person had said.

And I’m pretty sure Steve said, “I’ll meet you in the ER—Go to Penn”(Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania) which was about 35 minutes away and over the bridge from us. Steve was a post-doc at Penn and shared a lab with Dr. Myrna Rosenfeld, who was a neuro-oncologist and would eventually become Jamey’s doc.

I very clearly remember waking Caeley up to go “for a ride” so I don’t remember how/when she’d gone to bed, how long it took us to decide to go to Penn and what we were doing in the minutes(maybe hours?) leading up to our departure.

I remember her being excited since we were doing something fun and different.

I remember stopping by the MRI place to pick up the slides right as they were closing(or maybe they had already closed and were waiting for us? Again-very fuzzy).

I remember holding my husband’s fate in my hands in a orangeish envelope.

Once we got back in the car and continued on with our really exciting adventure to Philly, I decided to open the envelope and see what warranted such a quick response.

I remember reading the summary silently.

I don’t know exactly what it said but I think the words “suspicious, significant and mass” leapt off the paper.

Regardless of what was actually written, my takeaway was that Jamey had a brain tumor.

He was driving. I am a very nervous driver and felt safer with him driving into Philly than me(who, at the time, had never driven into Philly).

I was reading.

Caeley was babbling away excitedly talking about our adventure.

I never told him I’d read it. I said it was just a bunch of pictures and I had no clue what it meant.

It started to lightly rain.

I remember being on the Walt Whitman Bridge, holding the fate of my husband in my hand and to myself.

Caeley commented on how pretty the lights from the bridge looked sparking in the rain on the windshield.

Jamey agreed with her. “Yeah, it’s pretty, right” he probably said to her, laughing a bit.

We made it to Philly in no time and met up with Steve and his girlfriend Landi(who I think was still in Med school at Penn at the time) in the crowded little ER room.

Maybe an hour or two later, all five of us heard what I had been keeping to myself(and, quite honestly, everyone in the room except Caeley) believed was the case.

They eventually admitted Jamey. Around 3am, I headed to “Jetta Blue” the name we’d affectionately given to our 2004 VW Jetta wagon.

I buckled an overtired/wired Caeley into her booster seat and set off in the misty rain, headed for home.

It was my first time driving in Philly.

6 thoughts on “Last Half-day of Normal

  1. Oh bless you, dear! Thank you for that post, it’s been one year and one month as of yesterday that I lost my sweet guy to awful brain cancer.
    Major roundabout oath to final diagnosis and the beginning of treatment for my husband as well. And I had the burden of much more knowledge about his condition and prognosis ( both sucked) than he did.
    May our brave hubbies rest in peace. I miss him so much but I know I will see him again.

    Happy lent to you and your kiddo!


    • Hi Judy,

      Always comforting to see a comment from you. I’ll be honest, I lose track of dates/years regarding his diagnosis/treatments, etc. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism/protective measure?
      I woke up this AM and checked my Facebook(my regular page, not the blog) and saw a post from about 10 years ago stating that 03/14/08 was the day of the initial diagnosis. Years later, Caeley pointed out that it was “Pi Day”, so you’d think that would help me remember. Since I rarely even know what day of the week it is anymore let alone what year, I’m glad for Facebook memories popping up randomly on my phone.
      I remember when you commented that your husband had passed away. It seems like a lot longer than a year, but then it also seems like it could’ve been a month ago. For me, that’s mostly quarantine-related.
      If your “first year” (plus one month as of yesterday) was anything like mine, I’m sure you feel/felt the same way on the anniversary of his passing—still raw and real, but another lifetime.

      Hope you are doing well.
      Wonder if our husbands have met yet? 🙂

      —Kim and Caeley.


  2. Crazy th=o think that one day everything’s so normal and then the next it’s upside down. Beautifully written as ever. How you mix sensitivity and poignancy with humor is brilliant.


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