Updated: Mar 31, 2019
Southampton, NY is so quiet in winter. The town is closed up for the season by 7pm, and there is no one, I mean not a person walking around. The hospital to the left at the end of town is even quieter. There was prime parking when I got there and didn't think anyone was there besides my parents and staff. We stood around Joey in his ED room. Then my Aunts, Cousins and Uncles walked in. They had gone to get coffee at the only thing open, a 7-11 down the road. Even thought the nurses had set up a little coffee station for in the trauma room, which was beyond thoughtful. We all hugged one by one and they all cried bit by bit, I don't think I did, I'm really not sure. The conversations went a little like "I can't believe this", "What happened?", "Do you know anything?", "I thought he was doing so good" etc. Joey was the only person there that night, I think anyway, it sure felt like it. We had the staffs full attention. They were fantastic. They let us, all ten of us, come in.
We are a pretty close family. We all grew up together. We spent summers together crabbing and clamming on the sound, holidays together over the years have always been at least 20 people, the younger generation were all within a few years of each other in age and all went to the same school. There are more cousins and aunts and uncles then what were there that night. But we didn't want to tell everyone what was happening yet. We couldn't take the chance of someone telling my grandmother without any of us being there. Although she is literally one of the strongest, most amazing women I've ever known, she is 80, has cancer for the second time and well this is her grandson.
Then they all went back into the waiting room and the nurse came in to fix him up and check on him.
It was just me, Joey and the nurse. She was sweet. Middle aged, short blonde hair and sad. She had sadness in her voice. She, with all her training, knew what I knew with none. Joey wasn't coming out of this. She didn't have to say it, I knew it, I had know since we got the call. She asked about him, she genuinely wanted to know who he was. We talked for a bit. I told her about him, how he was my only brother, my kids uncle, one of the more favored cousins in the family, and how he had self medicated for years. I told her that he has struggled with addiction since he was about 17-18 and how he had stints of clean. She shared her past with me. It was nice. We had a little time more time and then she left. It was just me and Joey. I held his hand, brushed his hair and the tears just fell. Not sobbing, just like there were so many that they had no where to go but out. I just looked at him. Looked at my baby brother, my Broseph. I don't think I said anything to him, with the exception of "Why?" I couldn't. I couldn't speak.
My parents came back in. Shortly behind them was the detective. He brought his things in a brown paper bag. He explained everything to us. **There are things I cannot share yet because of course this is still very much ongoing**. We talked for a while, told him everything we knew... he seemed sad too. Of course he was, this must be taking a toll on him too. Remember I said Southampton is so quiet in the winter, I could imagine that this, around this time of year, is something he unfortunately get called about more often than not. He gave me his card, and said he'll be in touch.
We went into the waiting room for a while. My cousin was back with a coffee for me. It was pretty late by now. The nurses were cleaning him up again or monitoring him or doing more tests. We all just kind of sat there. The only ones in the area, just quiet.
Two Sheriffs walked in, there was a prisoner somewhere admitted in the hospital. I recognized the voice. It was Joey's first girlfriend ever. What are the odds? We do not know anyone really in Southampton. It is about 45 minutes from where we live, which on Long Island, is a world away, and I hadn't seen her since we worked together about a 15 years ago at Applebee's. But there she was. Joey's first little love. In that moment, I hoped she didn't see us. Instantly, I thought about her sweet 16 and remembered a picture that Joey and I took at it. She wore this pink fluffy dress, I think she had given him a candle. It was sweet, but a memory I would have surly not thought of for a while had she not walked in. She walked passed us, never looking over in the waiting room... I was thankful. I would later find out, when she came to his wake, that she did have a prisoner there and that she never looks over to the waiting room because it is to sad for her to see the families waiting for their people.
I went outside to get some air. Texted Dan and my closest girlfriends a update and just sat in the cold for a minute, alone. Trying to mentally prepare myself for all the things that were about to happen.
We went back in and they told us they were transferring him up to the ICU. My Aunts, Cousins and Uncles said goodbye and they went home. This was not a short thing and we were in for a long few days, everyone was tired. Mom, Dad and I went up when they had transferred him. We talked to the doctors for a bit and then just sat with him in his new room. The ICU was just about empty too, maybe one or two other patients. It had to be about 2am by now. My parents were exhausted. We were talking about I told them I was staying that they should go home and shower and come back in the morning. They needed to rest and their strength. We went back and forth for a bit but they finally agreed.
I've seen my father cry once. This was the second time. He could barely speak without getting choked up and tears coming out of his eyes. It was heartbreaking. But being a mother myself, watching my Mom hold her son's hand, cry over him, talk to him, stroke his hair, the hair she used to wash when he was a baby, the hand she grew in her body... it was torture. It took everything I had to not breakdown. I had to stay strong for them. I am the oldest, I had to do this for them. Joey would've expected me to.
They left. It was just me, him, the nurses and the doctors. We kept the lights off. It was nice, peaceful. Elaine, the nurse brought in a recliner chair and made it up for me with a blanket and pillow. She brought me coffee. I walked outside to ask for a status on him and the doctor came over to talk to me. I talked about Joey, who he is, the type of person he was, the type of uncle, son, friend. She cried with me. Even without him being awake to talk or move, they could feel through my voice how amazing Joey was. Three nurses, One doctor, One nursing assistant stood around the desk and cried with me that first night. They just listened, listen to one sister's story of her brother. Listened to life that I wanted to talk about, the life that belonged to Joey.
They were what I needed that night and I knew that empathy and emotion is what Joey would need over these next few days. What I needed to happen, happened. They saw Joey... really saw him. Not as a drug addict, not as a junkie, not just another patient. But as a friend, a son, a brother... as someone who belonged to someone, he belonged to people. They saw him as person, a person with broken pieces that may have just lost his battle.
I went back in his room, brushed his hair, wiped the dried blood from his nose and cozied up in my reclining bed chair... facing him so I could look at his face. I wanted to memorize it. The way his eyes looked when they were closed, the way that there was still a bit of him there. His color, he wasn't pale, his was heart still beating on it's own. The ventilator was surprisingly peaceful. Something about the rhythm and knowing that it's what was keeping him alive made me feel okay. God, that sounds crazy to say, but it was, just peaceful. I silently cried myself to sleep, it was about 4am.
I woke up at 7am. Still there, still next to him. He hadn't moved. This was all still happening.