I’m not sure how many days after we buried Toni Camille that Anthony went back to work but it was much too soon for me. That morning was like any other morning since she died. My eyes popped open just before 5 a.m. I didn’t want to disturb Anthony so I eased quietly out of bed. To say that the quietness of the early morning was deafening would be an understatement. I had to remind myself that I did not have to maneuver around Toni’s bassinet because it was no longer there. I had to tell myself that I didn’t hear her feeding machine purring. She was really gone.
I’m not sure how long I’d been asleep but I heard Anthony moving around in our bedroom. The light from the room glowed under the closed door. It was early. Maybe he couldn’t sleep either. What seemed like seconds later, the door flew open. Anthony was fully dressed and moving about quickly gathering his things. I asked him where he was going. He CAN’T be going to work! He’s leaving me. Alone! I can’t… I can’t…breathe!
My heart was racing so I breathed faster. My hands were shaking so I began to wring them. My legs wanted to move so I paced. Fresh air. I need fresh air! I opened the front door and the coolness of the morning filled my lungs. Better. So much better. But I can’t be still. I need to go back inside. Breathing. Pacing. Wringing. I rubbed the back of my neck so hard that it burned. Breathing. Pacing. Wringing.
Anthony stood there watching me. “What’s wrong? Your acting like a drug addict!” What did he just say to me? “I am NOT acting like a drug addict! Don’t say that!” Now I’m angry. Breathing. Pacing. Wringing.
Realizing that his effort to inject humor into the intense moment had failed, he hugged and held me. It’s going to be all right. It IS. He told me that I should call one of my friends. Get out of the house. Maybe that was a good idea. I watched him as he drove down the driveway. Breathing. Pacing. Wringing.
Only one friend came to mind, I’ll call her “JB”. God has blessed me with a respectable circle of true friends. Each of them has supplemented my life in their own way. I needed JB that day. She was not married and never had children. She couldn’t identify with what I was going though but we always jokingly, yet seriously, tell one another, “you knows my soul.” Our connection is a difficult one to explain but it just is. I didn’t know what I needed her to do for me but I did know that whatever it was that I needed she could give me.
Our friendship began on the first day of college, August 20, 1992. I was from a small town in Texas and she from an even smaller town in South Carolina. She lived across the hall from me in at our beloved Spelman College and have we have been connected ever since. We were eighteen then; now we were thirty‐five. We had been friends half our lives. During those college years we experienced everything together: boy issues, parent issues, stresses of school, we quietly supported one another financially when the other needed it. We are more like sisters than friends. We don’t talk very often, but our connection has never faded. We are always able to pick up right where we left off no matter how much time had passed. We’ve always relied on one another to make it through the toughest of times and I needed her to help me make it through this.
When I picked up the phone I knew that she wasn’t going to answer. It was 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. There was no way she was going to answer that phone. She was probably on some awesome trip or in a deep sleep because she had gone to a great party the night before. We rarely spoke and when we did it was only to deliver a quick piece of gossip and to say that we loved one another. That was it.
I dialed anyway. “Hey girl, what’s up?” She whispered in a groggy voice. Before I thought about it, I blurted “JB, AnthonywenttoworkandIdon’twanttobebymyselfandIneedtoseeyouareyoubusy?” Breathing. Wringing. Pacing. I clutched the phone between my shoulder and my ear. My body quaked so much that it almost fell. “Girl, yeah! Come on!” All of a sudden, her groggy voice cleared as if it was the middle of the day and I could hear her smiling. I hung up the phone and walked into the closet to look for something to wear.
As I stood in my closet staring at my clothes, I realized this would be the first time I would drive since the day I drove Toni to the hospital. Breathe. You can do it. I tried to find something to wear. I chose a Spelman t‐shirt and denim capris and matching jacket. I put on makeup and did my hair. Breathe.
As I finished dressing, my dad came downstairs and stood in the doorway. He just stared. No words, but I could see in his eyes that he was so worried that he couldn’t put words together. Before he could speak I said, “I’m okay, Daddy. I’m going to have breakfast with JB. Will you be okay here with the girls?” He chuckled and told me how “the little women” would be fine. They would be fine.
When I arrived at JB’s loft, she swung the door open before I could knock a second time. She was waiting for me. How sweet. There was something in her hand. “JB! Is that a bottle of wine? It’s 8:30 in the morning!” In the way that only she can, she looked at me seriously and said, “What? It’s too early for wine?!”
I found laughter standing there on the welcome mat in the hollow hallway of an old warehouse turned loft building. Who ever would have thought that I would have found it there? I found it and it felt good.
As we sipped our wine on empty stomachs, we began to catch up on all the things we hadn’t had a chance to talk about. Things that had gone unspoken between us for years had been vocalized. She needed me, too. Her grandmother died the same day as Toni and we had been unable to be there for one another. We cried together and laughed so loudly that our voices echoed in the same hollow hallway where I found my laughter and we literally woke her neighbors. I think she got three phone calls from neighbors asking to join the party. We needed each other that morning.
When we finally decided to go to breakfast, I sat on the sofa as I waited for her to shower. While I sat on her modern royal blue suede sofa and stared at the beautiful, unfinished paintings that littered her loft my mind started to wander. Leaning against the wall was a piece she’d painted when she was at her emotional all time low. It was a woman with dreadlocked hair. Her perfectly manicured hand was over her heart. With a tear dropping out of her eye, she was looking down as if she was too weak to look up. It was JB. . .then. It was me…now. Just as I felt the laughter leaving me and sadness forcing its way through, I heard the shower door slam and JB yell, “Okay, I’m ready!” I looked up and she stood there naked and dripping wet with a pair of shoes on. The laughter was back with a vengeance!
When she really got dressed we went to a cute corner diner for breakfast. The waiting area was full of people many of whom she knew. No surprise. We took a seat and laughed even more. As we chatted, my stomach got nervous so I excused myself to the ladies room. As I walked out of the restroom, I looked at myself in the mirror and assured myself that I would be okay. Just as I was walking out, our table was ready. I sat down and told JB, “I’m so hungry I could eat a Tonka truck!” She made a funny comment about my Tonka truck joke and when I tried to laugh this time, my laughter was stopped in its tracks. Breathing. Wringing. I couldn’t get up. These people will think I’m crazy! My legs wanted to move so I bounced them so violently that I had to hold them down with my hands over my thighs to prevent them from leaving the ground and hitting the bottom of the table. Breathing. Wringing. I could feel my eyes bulging out of my head. In my mind, I was screaming! JB! Help me! I just knew that JB was going to panic at the sight of me losing complete control. She didn’t. She sat calmly and looked at me as if nothing at all was happening. Don’t you SEE what’s happening to me? She poured syrup on her pancake and said, “So, what was it you were telling me Morgan said the other day?” What? Don’t you see I’m losing my mind and you are asking me about Morgan?!? I opened my mouth and began to stutter an attempted response to her question. “Sh…sh…she s…s…said…” and as I continued, my words began to flow more freely. My mind became clearer and my breathing became normal again. JB kept eating her pancakes and never said a word about my episode.
I broke the topic she began with me and said, “JB, I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.” Taking another bite of her pancake she calmly said, “Giiirrrrrl, you just had an anxiety attack, that’s all” and she kept chewing as if she’d just told me my shoe was untied. An anxiety attack!?!? I wanted her to tell me where she learned how to talk me through it but I felt silly asking her because she was turning the conversation in a completely different direction. She gave me what I needed. I got my laughter back in the hallway of her building and I had my last anxiety attack as I sat at a small table with her in the Thumbs Up! Café.
I’m Joslyn Jackson. I have so many kids that I have to stop and take a headcount sometimes. This is my blog. That guy is my husband and he runs the circus. I am also a lawyer who loves to write about the absolute insanity that is my life. I started this blog to embarrass my children. That is my number one goal. If you are entertained in the meantime…great.
Today, my goal as a friend is to help other mothers who have experienced the unimaginable measure of pain and loss that is losing a child to know and understand that they are not alone. I have been there and it WILL get better.
If I have typos….remember I said I’m not perfect.
That’s it! Love, Peace and Souuuuuuuuuuullllllll!