A few weeks ago, I submitted a completed manuscript of poetry to a publishing house that was accepting new and emerging writers’ manuscripts. I was so proud. My baby was complete and beautiful, and I was so eager to see what feedback I’d receive. I checked my e-mail multiple times a day, waiting for a response. Finally, a couple of days ago, I saw an e-mail from the woman who runs the press that I submitted my manuscript to. I did the online equivalent of ripping open the envelope hastily; I clicked that link faster than I clicked anything in my life. I skimmed the letter, then reread it. Somehow, I had worked myself into believing I’d be hearing that I’d be an author they would be signing on for the new year. Instead, the e-mail consisted of a very polite rejection.
Now, I am not writing this post to badmouth the press. I still have very good feelings toward this particular small press; the woman who e-mailed me got back to me in a timely manner and was very polite in her rejection, and I know how to handle rejection. I was not only the ugly duckling in middle school (a.k.a. a lot of the “hotties” from my class rejected me for the prettier girls), but I was also the awkward ugly duckling, so I’ve dealt with friendship rejections. This is the first time in a long time, my writing has been rejected.
Again, I have no bitter feelings towards this particular press at all; they were very encouraging and kind, and while it hurt having my first manuscript turned away, I know I will find a publisher (or I will self-publish if need be) that fits my particular style of poetry. However, in the meantime, I just have to keep searching for that particular publisher.
However, Thursday night, I had a wake-up call. I was lying on the couch, having a movie marathon with my boyfriend. I was all snuggled up under my sherpa blanket, warm as a bug under a rug, when my phone rang, shattering the relaxation. I jumped up and ran to my room to get it. I didn’t get to it on time, and my voicemail clicked on. I saw I missed a call from my mom. No big deal, we were making plans to hang out Friday morning before I had to go into work. She was probably calling to schedule the final details. I listened to the voicemail, expecting a message explaining just that.
Instead, I heard a tear-filled voice on the other end of the phone that didn’t sound at all like my mother. My mother is a strong, proud Italian woman. I’ve only seen or heard her cry a couple of times in my life, but the message changed me. “Your father has passed out and lost consciousness. I called 911, the paramedics are on the way.” I didn’t even listen to the rest of the message. I just hung up and called her back instantly. She was crying and told me that the ambulance just showed up at their house. I told her I would meet them at the hospital. My boyfriend and I threw on some clothes (we had been lounging around in pajamas that night), and he flew into the car, drove me to the Emergency Room, comforting me the whole time. Every time he saw tears well up in my eyes, he comforted me, tried to make me laugh, squeezed my hand, did whatever it took to keep me calm.
When we got to the Emergency Room, the nurse at the nurse’s station told us we must have beat the ambulance there because they didn’t have any record of my father in the hospital yet. So, we sat and waited. Eventually, more people showed up: family and friends, and my mom finally texted me the room number right as the nurse found us and told us he had been admitted to Room 2.
My brother and I got visitor badges and immediately ran into the room. My mom was in the corner of the room, looking like a shell of her usual self, and then my eyes gravitated towards my dad. He was white, white, white. His lips were white as a sheet, and he could barely lift his head off the pillow to look at us, all the while, he was murmuring incoherently under his breath. I tried my damnedest not to cry as my mom explained he had a severe reaction to something, and he passed out. She said she found him slumped over, head against the wall, and thought maybe he had a heart attack.
He had a mask on with a nebulizer in it. He had gotten three epinephrine injections and was getting pumped with saline. A whole lot was going on. Eventually, we learned he had a severe allergic reaction to something he ate. We’re starting to think it’s a reaction to sulphites, but at the time, we didn’t have much knowledge. So, we were all afraid, and seeing him in that condition, especially when he was mumbling under his breath and barely able to lift his head off the pillow without immediately dropping it again was scary.
My mom explained after the paramedics came, he regained consciousness, told them all the necessary information (she said he sounded mechanical, as though he was reciting it, but not really there), the paramedics asked him if he could stand on his own, and my dad, like me, is a stubborn, strong individual so he said he could…and immediately passed out again.
Well, my dad’s a big guy (6’2 or so, 250 pounds maybe?), so my mom was terrified before the paramedics got there because she couldn’t lift him or support him because he was too heavy, and I understand those fears completely. His blood pressure dropped so low, and it was just terrifying. All and all, it was a very scary experience for her.
As far as I go, I’m scared too because his initial reaction was breaking out in welts, and I have the same symptoms at times, and the doctor told me mine was just stress, but now, I’m worried something similar could happen to me. Not only that, but seeing my dad in that condition is just scary. It got me to thinking about the nature of life, and of course, me being me, I keep over-thinking what happened, and thinking about how we really have to appreciate our lives because none of us know how long we’ve got.
I get so caught up at times, thinking about the past, or replaying scenes of my memories, or beating myself up over past mistakes. STOP. This incident screamed at me. Just enjoy what you have now and what you have ahead of you. I just need to focus on letting go of the past, tearing away from its vice-like grip. At least there’s a silver lining: my dad is fine, they’re still figuring out what he’s allergic to, but they know what caused him to pass out, and he’s on the mend. We hung out last night, and he’s back to his usual dorky, Dad self, but I just…I have emerged changed. I want to be healthier, not just physically, but emotionally. I need to let go of the little things, and not let my past define my now because we have no guarantees. None of us do.