The other day I was sorting through a small pile of receipts, throwing some away and setting the important ones aside for filing. It was a completely mundane thing to be doing, yet a particular receipt stopped me in my tracks. It was from The Home Depot for $21.58. One single item was bought: a hinge.
The date on the receipt is what grabbed my attention. It was dated November 9, 2015, which is the day Aaron passed away. Seeing that date in print always makes my heart sink.
The time on the receipt was 11:53am. I thought back to the happenings of that day. I was still in the hospital, admitted as a patient. Aaron was in the NICU. The photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 4:00pm. And that morning is when Rich held Aaron for a couple of hours. So apparently after his time with Aaron and before 4:00 he went to The Home Depot and bought a hinge.
What the heck? How could he do such a normal thing on a day like that? We knew we were disconnecting Aaron from the machines that evening. Knowing that, why would he be anywhere but at the hospital spending every second with our baby?
An unexpected feeling of anger instantly filled me. I couldn’t believe that Rich actually left the hospital, drove to The Home Depot, and then walked up and down the aisles in search of some have-to-have-it-right-now hinge. What was so broken that it needed to be fixed right then?
This bothered me all day. I tried to push it out of my mind, but I just couldn’t. I finally brought it up later that evening.
“What hinge?” he asked.
“You bought a hinge at Home Depot at 11:53am on the day Aaron died.”
“You did. I found the receipt today.”
“Why would I need a hinge?”
“That’s what I want to know.”
We were quiet.
Then he said, “I don’t know. You know, that was a very weird day. I probably just needed to get out and do something.”
A very weird day, he says. He needed to get out and do something, he says. I wanted to yell, “Of course it was a weird day! Our baby was going to die that day, and you were out buying a hinge? How could you leave the hospital? Why weren’t you using every second of that day to be with him?”
I was able to keep those shaming, guilt-ridden words inside of my head, thankfully, and instead of responding I remembered back to how drugged up I was during that time. My doctors had me on all sorts of medications: two kinds of blood pressures meds, powerful pain killers for my c-section pain, and Xanax and another mood suppressor for anxiety. Yet even with all the drugs numbing my emotions, my heart still hurt. I felt it. I was in agony over the soon-to-be loss of our baby, and I had the benefit of being on some meds. But Rich? He had no medications. He had nothing to numb his pain. He had to go through all of it completely unmedicated and raw. How in the world did he ever manage that without falling apart? I’m not sure I could have done it.
That day had to have been so awful for him. I was laid up in the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure levels, our baby was in the NICU and was scheduled to be taken off life support, and Rich was going back and forth between us, desperate for a way out of this horrific situation. But there was none. So he left the hospital and went into a Home Depot. He bought a hinge in order to fix something in our home, probably some random cabinet door that was broken. I imagine he felt relief to be out doing something that he could actually have some control over.
My anger went away and all that was left was sadness. I looked over at my husband and saw that he was thinking back to that day. His eyes told me that he was reliving it all, just as I was.
“You know, I really can’t remember what I bought that hinge for.” he said, after a minute of being lost in thought. “Why did I buy that hinge? Now this is bugging me.”
I reached over and touched his arm. “Don’t think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter.”
He didn’t really buy a hinge from Home Depot that day. What he bought was a little bit of distraction and a small taste of normalcy. And if $21.58 provided him that, even if just for a moment, then it was worth every penny.