Save Every Day Til Eternity Passes Away Just To Spend Them With You

I went back to grad school and Farrah joined me at USD and I loved it. I went back to grad school and Bram was Opening Manager at Casey’s convenience store and I hated it. So did he. Consider this: Ever since my accident in our last year of college, Bram and I had practically lived in each other’s pockets. We lived together, ate together, bathed together, worked together, attended classes together, did theatre together. We weren’t together 24/7, but it was close. We never got tired of each other. We were usually close enough to reach out a hand and touch each other, and never really farther than a shout of “Baby!” away.

Now not only was Bram at work for 8 hours a day, but he had to go to bed early and get up early, so we weren’t even getting bed-talking time. Bram couldn’t even go home at Christmas for our annual Campus Players party or to visit his family. His family came to us and brought Adam with them for New Years. But the trailer was tiny and we were all crammed in there and Bram couldn’t stay up until midnight. He tried, but he fell asleep. I tried not to bitch or let him know how unhappy I was, because it was childish. I was being a crybaby because I wasn’t spending 18 hours a day with my husband. As traumas go, this isn’t even a broken fingernail.

We had a group of friends we went out with on Thursday nights, which was USD’s party night. Bram started teaching me to play pool. Even though I’m right handed, I play pool left handed because I was mirroring Bram. I can switch hands for difficult shots; it’s too bad I can’t twirl the cue without flinging it across the room, otherwise I could make quite a show of switching hands and continuing to play. Bram tried to teach me darts, but my throws are weak and the darts usually land on the floor. Bram would run over to look down at them after my turn and congratulate me: “Nice grouping!”

When Bram couldn’t go out with us any more because of his early hours, I was befriended by April. I brought Farrah out with us and April brought her friend Alyssa and soon we were our own exclusive pool-playing club. None of us were terribly good at it, but we had a lot of fun and we really supported each other. Bad Chad became my moral support through email. I could tell him how afraid I was of Bram being sick when I couldn’t tell my family because I was being strong and stoic for them.

We couldn’t get Bram’s diabetes under control. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It was because, if the doctor said he had Type 1 diabetes and we medicated for that and fixed his diet for that, he began exhibiting signs of Type 2 diabetes. We’d switch treatments and diets and he’d start exhibiting signs of Type 1 again. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. People with Type 2 don’t process insulin well and often their bodies make insulin, but not enough. So for type 1 you need to take insulin and for Type 2 you have to take medicine to help your body process the insulin. Two different treatments for two different diseases. One can’t turn into the other because they are caused by different things.

There is another type of diabetes, discovered in 1993: Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, or LADA, also called Diabetes Type 1.5.  Many physicians are still unfamiliar with the concept of LADA and may diagnose it as Type 2. The symptoms are similar to the other two forms of diabetes. LADA develops in adulthood, usually after the age of 30. Diet, exercise, and oral drugs usually used to treat type 2 diabetes work well in people with LADA at first, but then other treatments need to be put in place. Besides the fact that many doctors weren’t aware of LADA, Bram didn’t have a single Primary Care Physician. We’d moved several times; he’d switched doctors in Minot, and the clinic at the university assigned you whatever physician was available. 

And here’s another secret: even though you have to release your medical records to a new doctor if you change physicians, doctors don’t read your entire file before seeing you. They are too busy, their appointments are scheduled too closely together, they have too many patients. You have to be very pro-active, very vocal about your medical care, because it’s unfortunately too easy for your new doctor to skip your background. 

But I didn’t know any of this then. I didn’t know there are four types of diabetes (throw gestational diabetes in there for fun). I didn’t know doctors don’t have time to read your whole medical file. I didn’t know that it takes a while for the medical community to learn about and accept new diseases. Bram didn’t know. Karen and Conrad didn’t know. We didn’t know. All we knew was that we couldn’t get Bram’s blood sugar regulated, or his triglycerides under control. We couldn’t stop him from having bouts of abdominal pain. In my mind, the removal of the cyst was supposed to make everything easier to manage, but it didn’t. 

All any of us wanted was for Bram to not feel bad all the time. He was still our Bram–gregarious, loving, loud, silly. But he got tired easily and he hurt. He thought he was a burden on us. Monica and Nick and I loved him hard and let him know how important he was, how he’d changed our lives. But sometimes I was overwhelmed. I have physically and verbally fought people who were hurting the ones I loved, but there was no one to fight here. 

At least with Bram working at Casey’s he wasn’t working with power tools or climbing ladders. But he was depressed. He LIKED working with power tools and climbing ladders. He loved theatre. So I continued in grad school determined to get my degree so I could take care of my family and get insurance for everyone. And Bram held down the counter at Casey’s.

One night Bram and I were laying in bed, lights off, drifting to sleep, when it started to sound like hail was hitting our roof. But it was oddly sporadic and sounded more like pops than bangs. We listened for a minute and then Bram said, “What IS that?” I turned on the light and the ceiling was–rippling.

Bram leaped out of bed and said, “I think the ceiling is caving in! Get the kids and get out!” I followed  him out the bedroom door and when he stopped to knock on Nick’s door, I realized I didn’t have my spectacles. So I ran back to our room to grab them. I could hear Bram tell Nick the ceiling was falling; get Monica and get out. Then he came back to our room and grabbed my hand, saying, “Leave the glasses and let’s go!” As he pulled me out of the room I grabbed my specs off the dresser and the four of us ran down the hall to the front door, like we were in a disaster movie.

It wasn’t hailing outside. It wasn’t raining, or even windy. What it was, was the tree next to our house was slowly pulling out of the ground, falling on the roof of our trailer in slow motion. The pops were the roof giving way beneath the weight of the tree. Our neighbor called our landlord, who came out and looked at the tree and said he’d be back in the morning to take care of it. Meanwhile, he said we should all sleep in the living room, so we did.

We’d also adopted a kitten the year before, when Bram was getting sick. With four stubborn people in our house, we couldn’t decide on a name and she started answering to Kitty. Kitty had a brief flirtation with Nick before she decided Bram was her person. You could tell when Bram was feeling sick, because Kitty knew and she would crawl up under Bram’s shirt and sleep on his skin. Bram insisted she wasn’t going to sleep in our bed, but he didn’t even make it through one night before he gave in.

I was taking a lighting class and I just could not understand light. I couldn’t take it in my hands and manipulate it like fabric. When it came time to set and program lights for our final project, Farrah and I partnered up with Alyssa, one of our pool-playing pals. Light gels are sheets of colored  film you put in front of a light instrument to change the color of the light beam.  One of these gels, Rosco 51, is called Surprise Pink, because the film itself looks purple, but when you throw light through it, the light comes out pink. Surprise! 

Another gel (among hundreds) is Rosco 05, Bastard Amber. I said it was because when the lighting designer threw that color on costumes, the costume designer muttered, “Bastard!”  It tends to muddy colors, which can be very frustrating. Alyssa was programming the light board while Farrah and I were her actor standins so she could set levels. We were also taking notes so we could notate the design when we were done. 

Every time Alyssa called out ‘R51’ Farrah and I would throw our hands in the air and yell, “Surprise!” Every time she called out, “R02” we’d clench our fists and shout, “Bastard!” We were terribly amused with ourselves. Alyssa wasn’t. When Alyssa finally had to go home to her little boy, Farrah and I realized we shouldn’t have spent so much time fucking around. Alyssa knew what she was doing; we had no clue. I called Bram and begged him to come help us and he walked over.

It was a minorly fateful request. Bram had so much fun helping us and making us understand the lights, he decided he was going to go back to school to become a lighting designer. Since he now had insurance through Casey’s, he asked Conrad and Karen if they’d pay the premiums until he or I had a job and could get insurance for him ourselves. They agreed–they didn’t like that Bram had quit school, either.

Bram went and spoke to the chair of our department and all the professors, and asked if he could rejoin the program, but this time as a lighting design student. The theatre department had lived through Bram’s illness with us; they agreed to take him back. We went home for Summer Theatre, and when we came back, Bram, Farrah, and I were classmates again. Bram could go out with us again too, but he couldn’t drink. Bram hadn’t had a drink since before we got married..

People are really weird when you tell them you’re not drinking. It’s rare to say “I don’t drink’ without being subjected to a barrage of questions. Some people act like it’s an insult, like you’re judging them for drinking by not drinking. Some people will tell you one drink won’t hurt without ever knowing why you don’t drink. One time Karen asked Bram to come grill steaks and when we arrived, Bram found she’d marinated the meat in beer. Bram told her his medications could not be mixed with alcohol. She assured him the alcohol would cook out, a popular urban myth. Then she said the little bit that was left wouldn’t hurt him. We’d already gone through an emergency surgery with Bram, why risk anything at all that might make him sick?

Mostly Bram just let people think he was a recovering alcoholic, because really the decision not to drink is no one’s business and shouldn’t be the big deal that people make it.

It amazes me how humans can endure so much stress without it bursting out of their bodies and wreaking havoc.  I do remember being at the bar, sitting on a stool, while a guy  in our group held forth about Bram’s illness. I detested Bill, thought he was a know-it-all blowhard and the person dating him deserved far FAR better. Bill said something that was completely wrong and stupid and I stood up on the rungs of the stool, irrationally pissed. Bram caught me before I could launch myself at Bill  and softly talked me down while I insisted Bill was going to kill someone with his stupid stories. Or get himself killed.

When It came time for me to graduate, I was still stressed and afraid and felt overwhelmed, like I couldn’t take care of Bram and Nick and Monica on my own. Bram and I thought it might be best to go home where we would have a support system. It meant Bram still wouldn’t have his degree and it meant we wouldn’t be working in theatre–at that time Minot didn’t have theatre where you could make a living.  We figured we could find work with the degrees we had–maybe at a bookstore or fabric store. We were just afraid and desperate to have some relief.

Joyce told us if we came home she’d buy us a house: get the loan we couldn’t because of the bankruptcy, put down the down payment, and help us with the mortgage. I wondered what had happened between Joyce and Tonia that my family and I would be given such a gift. In the past, Joyce and Jerome wouldn’t even lend me money for new tires because they were buying things for Tonia and AJ. Whatever. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?

It was 2003. In January Monica turned 16. Nick turned 18 in April. In May I graduated from USD with an MFA in costume design. In June AJ turned 18 and Kelsie turned 12. In November Bram was 30 and Tonia was 36. We moved back to Minot.


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