Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day without a mom.

Oh Mother's Day...why do you have to come back every year? Every year I walk through the stores and see the cards and gifts being displayed for this holiday and I think "hmm, I don't have a mom". I never think of Mother's Day as a holiday to celebrate me, I always think of my mom. Don't get me wrong, I mean if my kids and husband want to do a little something for me I will be grateful and thrilled but all I can think about on Mother's Day is my mom.

It has been 3 years next week since my mom has been gone. Three years that I really needed her. A cross country move, another move after that two more states away...lots and lots of questions I have had for her. She lived with us for the last 5 years of her life. I counted on her every single day. For advice, to help with my kids, as a sounding board, as a confidante, as my best friend. She understood me and knew me better than anyone on this planet. She believed in me and supported me. I have said it before, she was my biggest fan. I have learned to live without her, I have gotten used to being a daughter without a mother. It's not easy. It really kind of sucks but I have done it.

Earlier tonight I was on Facebook and I changed my profile picture to one of my mom and me. It stirred up emotions and then when it came up in friends feed they started liking it and commenting on it. When they did I started thinking about how my mom touched so many of my friends lives. How so many of them loved her and always had a special spot in their heart for her. Those friends, the friends that knew her, that respected her and understood her are so important to me. My mom had a pretty rough life. Not as a child, but as an adult. She had a lot of heartbreak. She could be bitter, she could be rough. Sometimes it bothered me, I always felt like I had to apologize for her behavior. But my friends, they knew. They understood and they loved her. I am so grateful for that.

Speaking of grateful, I need to share something else I am grateful for. I am grateful for time, the time I got to spend with my mom. Those precious years that when I went to bed at night I knew she was right outside in the casita sleeping sound in her bed. So grateful that until the day before she died she was "present" she knew exactly what was going on and I was able to communicate with her, my kids and my husband were able to communicate with her. One of Gianna's favorite memories is that the very last thing my mom ate was mint chip ice cream that Gianna got out of the freezer and took to her. I know it sounds silly but so many people I know don't get that time.
I have a friend in California that lost her mom two years before I lost mine. I didn't know her then and I didn't know how her mom had passed. Tonight I asked her. When she texted me back and told me the tragic, heartbreaking story of how her mother was killed by a car while she was in the street my heart literally broke for her. The idea that she had to get a phone call like that, that she has had that as her final memory of her beloved mother just killed me. I cried.
A little bit later a life long friend of mine commented on the picture of my mom and me. Her mother was my moms best friend. A friend that my mom loved and cherished so much that we literally had an ongoing joke my whole life that if "Sonja says (that is her friends name) than it must be right". My mom loved Sonja so very much. Sonja is still alive. She is alive but she suffers from Alzheimer's. That? well as far as I am concerned is the most heartbreaking thing that I can ever imagine happening. It kills me that tomorrow my friend will go see her mom and even though she is "here" she isn't really here at all. That is too much for me to even wrap my head around.

I am a big believer that until you walk in someones shoes you truly don't understand what they have been through. Most of my friends still have their parents, heck some of them still have grandparents. Sometimes I feel like they don't understand me. They don't understand that even at 44 years old you can feel like an orphan. When there is no "home" to go to, it is really, really tough. When I meet new people and they ask where my family lives and I say "oh, my family is almost all gone, I only have one brother left" it kills me. It hurts my heart every.single.time. Tonight I tried to put myself in some of these other women's shoes. I thought about how strong they are and my heart hurt for them. I pray that both of them will have a peaceful Mother's Day tomorrow. I hope that they will cherish the good moments that they had with their moms and not focus on the hard stuff. I know that I will get through tomorrow. I know that I can look at my kids and realize how incredibly blessed I am. I will get through it but I can guarantee you I will be missing and thinking about my mom. I will also be thinking about all my friends who are in the same boat I am, having another Mother's Day without a mom.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That summer day

I am writing this post mostly for myself and my kids. I stopped writing on this blog a long time ago but I started it in the beginning so that my kids and family would have somewhere to go in case they wanted to know more about me or had forgotten different moments that they wanted to remember. This story isn't something we want to sit and reminisce about necessarily but it is something we never ever want to forget. It changed things. It changed perspective and it changed our lives.

August 3rd 2012-

It was an average summer morning in our house. Not a lot planned for the day and we were good with that. As she did most summer mornings (or fall, winter or spring too) Allison suggested that we go to Starbucks. We have a small addiction to Java Chip Frappucinos. Not one to ever argue with the idea to go to Starbucks I grabbed my favorite Clemson ball cap (still in my pjs, my husbands Clemson shirt and some sleep shorts) and said "lets go". Starbucks is about 5 miles from our house. A straight shot. One road. We are regulars, it's a part of our daily routine and we go all. the. time. As we sat in the drive thru I snapped this picture of myself, thinking I would post it to insta know, I figure everyone needs to know that were out and about in or pjs.
Once we got our drinks Allison wanted a breakfast sandwich from Bojangles so instead of leaving out the back entrance we went a different way. We turned right. There was no one at Bojangles so we got in and out very quickly. It literally wasn't 20 minutes from the time I snapped this picture to the moment it happened. We were probably going 35 to 40 miles an hour heading eastbound on one of our busiest streets here in Greenville. I saw the truck, he was trying to turn left into the gas station that was on my right. I didn't even give him a second thought as we approached. There was nobody coming up behind me for quite a while so he would have had plenty of time to turn (which he was doing illegally btw, that lane was the left hand lane for people traveling east bound and he was traveling west bound). Literally like a bad movie I heard it before I felt it and he had hit us. Head on. In a 3/4 ton Chevy pick up truck. He hit us so hard and with such momentum that my car went up in the air a little and flipped on it's side. It all happened in slow motion. Being in that moment, as a mother, with your kids in the car is not something I would ever wish on another mother. As the car was flipping I kept looking at Allison next to me. She was so scared. She didn't say much, none of us did. We all were in shock and maybe grunting a little but not a lot of words. When the car landed and we were hanging there and the airbags were all around us I really thought we were going to die. I didn't know that when airbags deployed they got hot and they smoked. I was scared. I thought the car was going to catch on fire. I thought we were doomed. We also had our Yorkie with us. I had no doubt he was dead, I couldn't imagine in a million years how he could survive what we just did. From the backseat Gianna kept saying "is this a dream?" "mommy, am I having a nightmare" and then as the blood started to come, "Help me, I am broken, help me mommy, I am broken". I couldn't do anything. I was hanging by my seat belt begging the people standing around my car looking in to "please help us, please help us!". They did. They weren't supposed to but they did. They all got together and they slowly, gently pushed the car back on all four wheels.
I knew I was injured but I didn't know how bad. My wrist was very obviously broken but that was all I could see. I unlocked my door and jumped (well I say jump but it was more like a stagger) out of my car. By the time I got out of the car the ambulance was pulling up and there were three people at Allison's side and three people at Gianna's side and a woman was holding my dog. My dog that was alive. I was shocked. He was scared but he was alive. Gianna was bleeding from her mouth and in a lot of pain. Allison was yelling at the people asking her questions. She was frustrated because she couldn't see them. She had no center vision. She was scared. When I realized that they (my girls) were getting care from the EMS people I started trying to get a hold of my husband. He never answers his phone at work. Never. I had to call a friend who's wife is my friend that works with Chris. I was shaking and I was hurt but I was pretty calm. I was in shock. Calling Chris was awful. Saying to my husband that the girls and I were in an accident and I didn't know how bad the injuries were was so hard. My next phone call was not easy either. I had to call my in laws to come get my dog. Can you imagine? "Umm, Hi, both of your grandchildren were just in a horrible car accident, our car is totaled and it flipped on it's side, but what I need from you is to come to the accident site and get my dog from this sweet lady who has offered to stay here until you get here, because the girls and I are being rushed to the trauma center" and honestly, that is pretty much how it went. I felt awful but I was so glad they were here to call. So grateful that 3,000 miles from "home" we had family.
As I hung up the phone one of the EMS ladies came to me and said "your younger daughter is doing okay, we are worried about your older daughter. We are taking her priority one to the hospital and you and your other daughter will follow in the next ambulance". Holy cow. This was serious and scary. As I stood there holding my extremely broken, crooked wrist I realized that I couldn't stand on one of  my feet. I was balancing on my right foot. I was starting to feel my injuries. I was scared. The crowd that had gathered around was amazing. They were doing everything and anything to make me feel better. Southern people rock. They aren't rubber-neckers who drive by an accident to see the gore, they get out of their cars and help. They don't ask if they can help. They just do it. They all started to pray with me. That is what we do in the south, we pray. It touched my heart and changed my life in that moment. I have known from the day that we moved here that this was the place we were supposed to be. That morning standing there broken and scared to death I was so certain that God himself had put us there that I could feel him. I felt him all around us.
After they loaded Allison into the first ambulance and took her away a very rotund EMS man came to me and said (and I quote) "ma'am, we are taking your daughter to the hospital, are you going with us or are you getting a ride with someone else" uhh...what in the world was he talking about? so I said, "I AM BROKEN' and then, "I was driving that car, of course I am going with you". It was then that I realized that the whole time I was standing there on the side of the street not one paramedic or EMS had tended to me. Not a heart rate, not a 'here ma'am, sit down so we can check you'. I was irritated and offended by this guy. He told me to come on then, cause they were leaving. A paramedic looked at me and said "her wrist is broken, you need to splint that" Finally, someone noticed. They splint my arm an I climbed into the ambulance unassisted with a broken foot.
The drive to the hospital was long. It is about 20 minutes from where we were. Twenty minutes of me not knowing what was wrong with my kids. Twenty minutes of Gianna saying things like "mommy, I promise I am going to be ok" and "please help me, I am broken, it hurts". Oh my heart. It was breaking. My mind was racing. Where was Allison? Was she ok? Was she going to have brain damage?. The longest twenty minutes of my life.
We pulled up to the hospital (oh btw the guy in the back of the ambulance never checked me. not once.) They rushed Gianna off to pediatrics and put me in a wheel chair and took me to the ER. Waiting room. Like the same place you go if you have an ear ache or if you cut your finger real bad. I had just been in a head on collision with a giant pick up truck and my car flipped and they said "ok ma'am, I gave them your name, they will call you in a while" I am not kidding. The shock was wearing off, my adrenaline was slowing down and I knew I was hurt. I kept thinking 'huh, I don't think this is right, I might be bleeding internally' 'There could be so many things wrong with me and they might call that woman sitting across from me with a bandage wrapped around her finger first'. When they finally did call my name they took my heart rate and luckily for me it was so high that they rushed me back to a 'room' and had me hooked up to a heart monitor and an iv so fast your head would spin. Nothing like a heart attack looming to get you quick service.
I won't get into all the details as this story is going on and on and on. Chris got there and I sent him to pediatrics to find the kids. When he came back he told me that Gianna's intestine had been severed by the seat belt and she was going into emergency surgery. Allison was having a number of tests and being checked.

After several hours it was determined that I had a broken wrist, foot and fractured sternum. Gianna was in recovery and Allison was in her own room being observed at least overnight. I was taken to the heart floor in the ICU as my hear rate continued to climb and in spite of all the meds I was on and all the care that was being taken it wouldn't go down. My left wrist was broken and my right arm had two IVs in it. I had a catheter because I couldn't walk. How in the world was I going to text my kids or get to them. I didn't realize at the time but the girls and I were in different buildings completely. Poor Chris was running back and forth between the three of us. The staff at the hospital was amazing. They put my girls in rooms right next to each other. I found out later that Allison could hear Gianna crying and screaming in pain and was heartbroken and crying 'that's my sister, that's my sister!'. Ugh. I hate that. The fact that they had just been through something so scary and I couldn't be there and Chris was torn between all three of us. I didn't see them until 36 hours after the accident. Here is Gianna when her nurse wheeled her to me. Oh my baby...
Seeing this picture always makes me choke up. Oh she was so brave. All alone in her room. Scared to death. Wanting her mom. The nurses were amazing. They took such good care of my girl. Of both my girls. Oh, Allison stayed overnight for observation and tons of tests and then was released. Oddly enough, the one of us who was rushed priority one to the hospital was the first one out.
I stayed in ICU for 4 days and Gianna stayed in pediatrics recovering from her surgery for four days also. During that time we texted and talked on the phone and saw each other 3 times. Our nurses were won.der.ful.

My first trip out to the doctors. During this time I was reading the Hunger Games and I felt like Katniss took 3 people to get me ready
Our recovery at home was difficult. I felt that we weren't ready to be home. My bruises were so severe. So bad that I couldn't lift either of my arms. I couldn't move well. Gianna couldn't stand up straight because of her incisions in her belly. She wanted to go back to the hospital. She wanted those nurses to take care of her. I couldn't help her. I couldn't even pull up my own underwear. I was helpless. Chris had to shower me and Allison did everything else. I mean everything. This girl who was so sore and moving so slow herself was the nurse to her sister that I couldn't be...and she was caring for her mom too. Doing things that I had to do for my mom when she was sick (and dying). It was humbling. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. There are so many moments from those first few weeks that are forever etched in my brain. The way people just showed up at night with dinner for us. Nobody said "if there is anything we can do let us know". They just did it. They fed us. They ordered housecleaning services (sweetest friend in California, did that one) for us. They were amazing. I was far from the place that I called home for 41 years but I was home. I was in a place that I never want to leave.
We are now 3 months out. The kids are doing great and for the most part have been released from their doctors. Gianna still has some physical therapy and Allison would like to see a counselor. She is traumatized a little and has a hard time driving. Loud noises scare her and she is very jumpy when she drives or actually when anyone drives. I am doing okay. I am older, my wounds were deeper and it will take me longer to heal. My fractured sternum is the worst. I also have so much scar tissue from the seat belt wounds. That hurts often. I am sore most of the time and at night or when it's cold I walk with a limp. It's okay though. I am alive. My kids are alive. My dog is alive. From the moment we checked out of the hospital, maybe even before that I have felt so lucky. So incredibly blessed. This could have been so much worse. We have talked to strangers (it's kind of a small town) who saw the accident and they assume someone died. It was bad y'all. It was not a fender bender. It was one of those accidents you see and immediately start praying for the people. We walked away from it (well kind of ). Not only could we have died but our injuries could have been so much worse.
One of my favorite things to have come from all of this is something Gianna said to me a few weeks ago. She is twelve years old. She has decided what she wants to be when she grows up. On our way home from school she said to me "mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a nurse who takes care of kids in the hospital. I want to make kids feel the way those nurses made me feel". Oh my gosh. I cry just typing that. Her heart. Her life was changed. I love that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Mike

When I was a young girl growing up in the 70's I knew a few things for certain. I knew that I was going to marry this guy-

I knew that no matter how hard I tried I was never going to be as good a roller skater as my friend Maren. I knew that the best jeans were Jordache and I knew how to tell the real ones from the fakes.
I also knew that my brother Mike Sabella was the coolest guy around.
I think I started idolizing him from the time I was very small. He was six years older than me and seemed to be all knowing all the time. I trusted him and believed in him like every good little sister does with their older brother.

Because of the age difference we never really argued, there wasn't a sibling rivalry between us. I mean don't get me wrong, he teased me for sure. He started calling me 'chubby' when I was a kid, I don't mean like "Nina, you shouldn't eat that you are getting chubby" I mean like "hey Chubby can you hand me the phone?". It was my name. I didn't like it, it drove me crazy but at the same time it was kind of endearing.
As the years went on and Mike moved out (I have written about that devastating event before, it was awful) he became more and more protective of me. He started to worry that I might make the wrong choices in middle school and high school. He was always sure to give me pep talks and was constantly telling me to 'stay sweet and innocent' those were the words he would write to me all the time on birthday cards and notes.

Here is a card he got me for my birthday one year and inside it says- Nina, Make these high school years pass the way they're supposed to, fun and exciting, But please stay as sweet and innocent as you are. Love, Mike.

He was 21 or 22 years old when he wrote that. I love that at age he was worried about me.

I love this picture. My hair is horrible, my dress is silly and Mike's chest hair is out of control but the picture is awesome. We look alike, and that always makes me smile.
When I was a Junior in High School I had an accident on Mike's scooter. I flew off the scooter while I was riding it and went over the handle bars, I broke the fall with my face. It was ugly. I broke my nose and my eye socket. I was in bad shape. That was the card that Mike had written and put on the flowers he brought me. I am not one that saved things like this, but when it was from him I did.
These pictures were from my high school graduation. The roses were from Mike. I lost that card. I wish I could remember what it said.
Mike was the kind of brother that when he got his license and I was 10 years old he would let me go places with him. Not always, but sometimes I was able to go to the beach with him, go to the store. Those were my favorite times when it was just the two of us. He taught me how to drive when I turned 15. He let me take my driver's test in his BMW. After I had my license sometimes we would trade cars. I drove a 66 Mustang. I would make sure that my car was always clean and full of gas for him, he would hand over his car filthy dirty and on empty. I would get mad and tell him that it wasn't fair. He would say "Nina, just because it says empty doesn't mean it really is empty, you have miles and miles to go" that little piece of advice got me into trouble several times...

One time in late 1988 he had been living in Hollywood and he wanted to show me around. We went to the movies at The Beverly Center and then we went to dinner at Ed Debevic's. I remeber that night like it was yesterday. In December of 1988 on his birthday he and I went and picked out the family Christmas tree together, it was awesome. I didn't have any idea at the time that it would be his last birthday, his last Christmas. I didn't know how heartbroken I would be the following year. I had no idea that I could ever feel that much pain.
Mike has been gone for 23 years. For the first five years after he died I had a dream about him every single night. Every night. Sometimes they were sad, sometimes they were happy. But every night when I went to sleep I knew I would have a dream about him. He truly was the best brother any girl could ever ask for. He loved me so much and he made sure I knew it. It breaks my heart to think that he never got a chance to be a dad, to be a husband, to see the success that I was sure would one day be his. He had many friends and there are so many others that miss him as I do. None as much as my parents did of course. After Mike died both my parents walked around with a little piece of their hearts gone forever. They were never the same. My dad became more sentimental, more emotional. My mom became harder, more abbrasive and more distant. She didn't want to let anyone too close. I can't imagine what it was like for them. I am just so glad that now they are all together. Sometimes I resent the fact that they all left. Sometimes I hate that I feel like my Dad gave up. I want to scream 'WHAT ABOUT ME!' but I know in my heart that everything happens for a reason and there is a plan for me.
This is Mike and his best friend Kevin a few weeks before Mike passed away.

My kids and my niece and nephew never got to meet Mike. It is so important to me that they get to know him through me and through our brother Danny. I want them to know how funny Mike was, how he loved Danny and I both so much. His famiy was very important to him. He was good to his mother and respected his father. He liked the ladies and he had tons of friends. He partied a little too much but he worked very hard. He was talented and loved music more than anything.

I have no idea what he would be like now at 49 years old. I imagine he would mostly be the same. I guess he would probably still be calling me Chubby. I do know that if he was here we would be celebrating his birthday together.

I miss you Mike Sabella. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I have been thinking about posting on here lately. I just haven't known where to start or what to write. Then about 10 minutes ago one of my lifelong best friends and her sister drove by my childhood home and snapped a picture and posted it to my facebook wall. It rocked my world. It instantly had me sobbing.

It's not as if I haven't seen it or driven by it myself since we moved out 22 years ago, but now it's different. I live 3,000 miles away. I have no idea when I will ever see it again.
The memories in this home are countless. It is the very last place that my family was whole. It is the last place I saw my brother Mike. It is the last place I lived before we moved to the desert, 110 miles away. I lived here from the time I was five years old until I was 21. It's not a fancy home, it's not bad either. It's a simple home that a wonderful family lived in.

I learned how to ride my bike right there on that sidewalk. I sat in the living room looking out that front window waiting for my friends to pick me up as a teenager. That window is also where our Christmas tree sat year after year. Those high tension wires behind the house were where my brother, his friends and sometimes my cousin would climb. My girlfriend, (the one who took the picture) and I would sit in that front yard and wait for pizza to be delivered from the cute pizza delivery boys.

I could go on and on, the memories are countless. I love that I lived in the same house for so long. I love that so many of my friends can still drive by that house and remember being there with me. It was the only home they only knew for me. Moving to the other side of the country has made me appreciate the familiarity of home. It has made me realize what I had. I had a comfort zone. Sometimes it makes me sad that my kids won't have that. That we have owned and lived in so many different homes. Now we are renting and we know this more than likely won't be home forever. I hope that my kids remember all the places we have lived. The heart and soul that were in those houses. I hope that they can look at pictures of those homes and get the same feeling I get when I look at this one.
Home. It's a wonderful place, isn't it?