Welcome To The Black Parade

Every time I think that I am getting over this, every time I think that I am okay with the cards I’ve been dealt and the loss that I’ve endured, something-whether big and bold or tiny and insignificant-hits me. And it can be the teensiest thing: a sentence, an event, a stranger, a revelation. But it’s enough to throw me back to November 10, 2007, the morning it all started.

It was a Saturday. Greg and I had woken up early and were cleaning up breakfast. I remember the TV was on—a show on TLC called “Kids By The Dozen.”

I had to go to the bathroom. That day marked my 20th week of pregnancy; I was officially half way there. On my way to the bathroom I heard the phone ring. Greg looked at the caller id and told me it was my dad. I told him to tell him to either wait a minute until I finished or I’d call him right back, as I closed the bathroom door behind me.

My father has an Italian accent and speaks loudly. It must be a gut reaction, but when people speak to him, they too speak loudly. As I walked to the sink to wash my hands I noticed that I hadn’t heard Greg talking to my dad. I had heard him say, “Hello,” but then he didn’t say anything else. I didn’t hear the the tell tale loud-speak that comes when one speaks to my dad on the phone.

As I stood there in front of the sink I knew right then and there something had happened.

I slowly opened the door and walked down the hallway. Greg met me at the end of the hallway. He said, “I have to tell you something.”

It was then that I took a mental snapshot of my life. I wanted to remember life, and how good it was, at that very moment. I knew that what he was going to tell me was going to be devastating. I tried to hold it off for as long as I could.

“No. I don’t want to hear it.”

“I have to tell you.”

“No, I don’t want to know. Oh god! Ok, let me guess. It’s my grandmother.”


“Oh no, oh no! It’s Marco. It’s him! Is it a car accident? Is someone dead? Just tell me, is someone dead?!”


“Ok. Who is it?”

“It’s your mom. She had a heart attack.”  At that moment I fell to my knees.

“They are just waiting for her to wake up. Go and take a shower, and get dressed and we’ll drive to St. Joe’s and wait for her to wake up.”

I don’t know if my father told Greg that they were just waiting for her to wake up or if that was something that Greg made up for me. I will probably never ask Greg or my dad, so I will never know. I mean, it was not the truth, not at all. So, I’m not sure who decided to go with that.

I remember my shower taking so long because I would start crying over and over. I remember it started to snow once we got on the highway. I remember the tire pressure light came on and Greg insisted on pulling into a gas station to fill the tire.

At that point, for the first time in my entire pregnancy, I wanted time to stand still. I didn’t want the next five months to go by so that I could meet my daughter. The last thing I wanted at that very moment was to know what her name would be.

You see, Greg and I had a difficult time choosing a name for Leah. I remember going through page after page of the baby-name book praying that one would just leap out at me. I had a wish that I could just have a tiny glance into the future and find out what her name was. To save us the time and effort it was costing us to agree on one.

And, as I sat in the car, watching the snow fall on the windshield, cursing Greg for stopping to fill the tire at a time like this, I realized that if I could have been given the opportunity to know my future daughter’s name at that moment, I would have passed.

That morning is so vivid in my mind. The rest of the week, and the following week, I remember in snippets. Being told by the hospital front desk that I wasn’t permitted to go up to see my mother, trying to remain calm when asking her to look into it but not being able to finish the sentence, the look on her face when she was told we were permitted to go up. (That’s when I knew my mother was going to die, that they weren’t just waiting for her to wake up.)

Being left alone with my mom soon after arriving while Greg drove my dad home to change. Asking Gwen the nurse how good her chances were of waking up and being told, “slim to none.” Asking if it was true that people with strong personalities have more of a chance of pulling through. Being told no. Being thankful for that.

The Code Blue alarms that went off three times that night. The way we’d jump up out of our seats when the alarm would go off and run out of her room into the waiting room and all sit there holding each other's hands so tightly…waiting for the foot steps to come down the hall to tell us it was over.

Hearing each time that she had pulled through, again.

Signing the DNR.

Speaking with doctor after doctor. Her one doctor telling my dad that I should be concerned about my weight and my dad having to inform him that I was pregnant.

Gwen returning on day 2 in a horrible mood.

Physically not being able to eat for the first time in my life.

Deciding it was time.

The woman who tried to convince us that we didn’t need a full autopsy. Me telling her that in 23 years I was going to be my mother’s age and I owed it to my unborn child to make sure that I didn’t die.

The grueling three and a half days she continued to live.

The song “I hope you dance” playing on a friend’s myspace page when I received the phone call that she had finally died.

And five months later, having to return to that hospital to give birth to Leah Patricia.

Named for Patricia Ellen Grieco.

I live with these memories and on most days I am able to keep them inside. And not let them affect my life. But then something small happens—to me. Or to Leah. Mostly to Leah. And I go back and think about how life was before. How much Leah had been through before she was even born. How much I have to tell her in the future. How much she’s going to miss.

We'll carry on, we'll carry on
And though you're dead and gone, believe me
Your memory will carry on, we'll carry on
And in my heart I can't contain it
The anthem won't explain it



Louie said...

It is scary to think that the pain we feel will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Best we can do is try to work through it, even though in the back of our heads we know we will never be the same.

Felicia Oldja Hammoud said...

It has been three and a half years since losing my dad and the pain is still there. Lessened but still there EVERY DAY. You are forever changed and life is not the same. I go through the same stuff you're going through Dana; whether big or small, there are constant reminders that cause the tears to pour. Anger and regret that he's never going to meet his grandson and that he left us. Anger that he didn't let us take him to the hospital and in denial he was having a heart attack. Dying in my arms on Nov 13, 2006.

Anonymous said...

Words cannot express how much I detest that song, "I Hope You Dance." It instantly makes my mother sappy about my father, I can't deal with it. If it comes on, I do all that's in my power to either turn it off, leave the room, put in my iPod, anything to not hear it. I hate it.

I remember exactly where I was when my mom told me that Aunt Pat had a heart attack. I was in Ohio on a trip with a club I was in. They all went to these events while I sat in the hotel and cried my eyes out. I had brought my laptop, and I Googled flights home. When it was time to drive home, I begged them to go faster and we got home 2 hours ahead of schedule. I instantly called my mom to drive up to St. Joe's, secretly nervous and scared to drive on the parkway (I hadn't really done it before and north Jersey driving frightens me) and I remember she didn't want me to come and she knew the only person I'd listen to was you, and she put you on the phone, and you told me I could come see her when she woke up. I was so mad at you and everyone and all I really wanted was to be there with my family. I understand it now, of course.. but I was so frustrated then.

Evan only visited me once while I was at Rider, and it was with my mom, to come tell me that your mom had passed. And then I came home for Thanksgiving break, and spent my 20th birthday at her funeral. Sophomore year sucked.

Without being too sappy, Leah is perfect. And I know 100% that your mom has a hand in that.