If you have never experienced a home fire, you have no idea of it's impact or devastation, it is a life changing event.
My best friend, of nineteen years, Kevin and I finally were able to get an apartment together and live as roommates. This was years in coming and just to clarify, a platonic relationship. We were very close, in the first years of our friendship, each of us were in and out of romantic relationships but finally we were both single at the same time.We decided to share an apartment together.
We had been living together for a year and a half. In January 2004 I was leaving the apartment to meet a friend for lunch. Kevin was off that day and had a dentist's appointment at 1:00. When I left home he was doing laundry. I told him I would be back in the late afternoon or early evening, and wished him luck at the dentist.
Little did I know what was about to unfold that day. About 3:00 in the afternoon, the person I was having lunch with received a call on her cellphone, it was Kevin. I can't remember why he didn't call me directly. Nonetheless, she hands me her phone and he is hysterical. It took me a while to understand what he was saying. Finally, through his tears and hysteria he explained that while he was gone for two hours, there had been a fire in our apartment. This was not just a small kitchen fire, it rendered our apartment uninhabitable.
The fire began in Kevin's room, it was burnt completely, then the fire moved into the adjacented dining room. The heat was so intense that the smoke detector above the doorway leading to Kevin's room melted and ran down the wall.
Every window in the entire two bedroom apartment was broken out by the fireman in an attempt to confine and put out the fire. The apartment was laid out in such a way, that the living room and my bedroom were toward the front and Kevin's room, the dining room, and the kitchen were toward the back.
Every personal item Kevin owned, photos, mementos, furniture and clothing was lost. He was left with nothing. The dining room was completely lost, the black lacquer hutch, the glass top table, all eight chairs, artwork etc, all ruined, unsalvageable.
There was black soot everywhere, all over the walls and ceilings of every room, and of course the smell of smoke permeated every square inch of everything.
Since I was in the suburbs, I ended up spending the night with my friend and her family at their home. Kevin spent the night at a neighboring friend's house. All of this happened on a Thursday.
The next day I was overwhelmed with the devastation, as was he. The horror of the damage had to take a backseat on Friday, we had to find a place to live and quick. Fortunately, the building owners had several properties and I ended up taking a one bedroom apartment, an apartment that was quite a step down from the beautiful place where Kevin and I had previously lived.
Unknown to me at the time, immediately after the fire, Kevin had made a decision to move in with his sister in Florida. This came as an unexpected surprise to me. The implications of his decision and it's impact on me I will discuss in a later blog. Right now I want to stay focused on the fire and it's immediate affect on our lives.
I remember walking into the apartment on Saturday morning and being totally overwhelmed by the damage the fire had caused. I didn't know what to do or where to start. I was romantically involved at the time, and I called my boyfriend in complete hysterics, barely able to form words. He, being a calm and rational person by nature and not being personally affected (except for how it related to our relationship) by the fire, was able to calm me down. He said that our goal for that day was to move, by hand, enough of my salvageable items to my new apartment across and down the street. Our attainable goal was to spend the night in my new one bedroom apartment. His calmness and rational thinking, in the eye of my storm, helped me so much. Now I had a goal for that day, something that could be accomplished and I focused on that. My boyfriend came over within two hours and we began carrying, by hand, my bed, the couch, and anything salvageable to my new place. His participation and help in this dire situation is something I will never forget. He helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. I will forever be beholding to him for that. Let me just say that I have been through more than enough pitfalls in my life, but that fire remains near the top as a life changing event.
It changed where I lived, it changed my relationship with my best friend, it was financially devastating and ultimately led to health problems.
Within two weeks of the fire I developed a blood clot in my right leg. I was drilling a hole through the wall to install cable television in another room. I must have been sitting in a weird position, for too long a time period, the result, a blood clot.
I went to the hospital immediately, having had several blood clots previous to that period, I knew what I had to do. I also knew what lay ahead for me. Fortunately, the clot was able to be dissolved. The procedure to dissolve the clot was very unpleasant, to say the least. It required an angiogram of my right leg, followed by a procedure called a TPA. Don't ask me what that stands for but it involved having a cathater remain in the vein of my leg, while a very potent blood thinning solution dripped continously until the clot dissolved. This procedure necessitated my being in intensive care. The risks included spontaneous bleeding from any number of areas of my body. In an attempt to avoid this bleeding, I had to lie completely immobile until the dangerous solution dissolved the clot, this could take anywhere from twenty four to indefinite period of time, most uncomfortable and scary.
Removal of the cathater although, tolerable, required another twenty four hour period of lying completely still. After all of that, I had to be reintroduced to my oral blood thinner (coumadin). I could not leave the hospital until it reached a thereputic level, this takes several days.
All the while, I wondered where Kevin was. Why hadn't he called or come to visit me? This was, at the time most hurtful to me. Again, as discussed in a previous blog, I felt abandoned by him. I understood what he had been through with the fire, but so had I. In addition to the fire, I was also faced with serious health issues. Kevin told me he knew I was not alone, that I had a boyfriend. This is true, but a romantic relaionship is different than a friendship of nineteen years, at least to me. I also needed my best friend.
At that time, I felt that Kevin should have attempted to come and visit me or at least called. Perhaps that was selfish of me, however that is how I felt. This lead to a great rift in our relationship, a rift that would never be bridged. I needed Kevin at that time in my life and he wasn't or perhaps couldn't be there for me. Shortly after I got home from the hospital, Kevin moved Florida.
We never found out the cause of the fire. Because the fire started in his bedroom and because he smoked, in his mind he felt I blamed him for the fire. I never blamed him, it wasn't the fire I was upset with him about. Rather, it was his not taking the time to visit me while I was in the hospital that was most hurtful. Before he left for Florida, over the telephone, I told him how I felt. Specifically, I said I don't blame you for the fire but I was hurt by your seeming lack of concern for me during my hospital stay.
We never saw each other again after I got home from the hospital. We never got to say good bye to each other. I regret that to this day. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes. I love him, and I miss him. If I could do it all over again, things would be different. I know he knows now, he was and is loved by me.
Regret is a difficult thing to live with, it can haunt you if you let it. As Kevin has passed away several years ago, I know whereever he is, he knows how much I love him and miss him. As horrific as that fire was, it pales in comparsion to the loss of my friendship with Kevin. A loss that cannot be regained in this lifetime. Most regretable....