It’s Valentine’s Day.
We’ve never really been huge on V-day, not through some self righteous sense of railing against commercialism or anything even remotely cool like that, but rather just because for us, February and March is already jam-packed with celebrations. Birthdays: Tim’s Mum, my Mum, my own, Tim’s sister, Tim’s brother, Tim’s own, not to mention the anniversaries of both our first kiss (March 14: at the Pearl Jam concert of 1998 no less) and our wedding. In short, we’re already overloaded with reasons to celebrate without adding the fuss of February 14 to the list.
But today, we’re gonna do it.
Admittedly, it will be in a hospital bed – and with Tim’s heart fright meaning that he’s completely sworn to leave hospital a changed man, determined to “become the healthiest person you’ve ever seen, just you wait!” it will be resolutely chocolate-free – and in a ward with three elderly women suffering varying levels of dimentia, but damn it if I’m not going to move heaven and earth to find some way to make that setting romantic.
The good news is – and this is cutting a ridiculously long few days very short indeed – that the cardiologist seems reasonably confident that there is no evidence of an actual heart attack at this point. Which is awesome. Though they have yet to rule heart problems out altogether (we’re awaiting more tests on Monday, after which, assuming all goes to plan, he will hopefully be given the all-clear and sent home), it is looking better each day. As in, he seems better. Calmer. Alive.
That first day of the phonecall, in my crazy strategy to stay calm in the midst of my panic (which basically comprised keeping my hands as occupied with activity as humanly possible) I grabbed a book to take to him in the hospital. I didn’t even look at the title, all I saw was that it was a chess book; it was only later that we realised the spookiness of the title given the circumstances: “Playing the Endgame”. The next day, again, not even paying attention to the name, but simply choosing a book by his favourite author, I brought in the much more reassuring one: “Finally Alive.”
It was only much later, once the worst of the storm had truly passed, that we were able to look at that and laugh.
Tim says that there were two points in this whole, entire, crazy affair where he honestly thought “this is it.”
The first was in the car. There he was, a third of the way through his daily commute to work, when it hit him: a paralysing tightness in his chest that quite literally knocked the wind out of him. His arms tingled, his breath shortened, and that terrible, terrible pressure pushing, pushing, pushing into his heart.
The second was in the ambulance. His heart pounding like it was about to leap out of his chest and onto the stretcher itself, Tim was terrified. I know. Because I felt the exact same thing – while not physically, but certainly emotionally – only three short weeks ago. To emerge alive from such a confrontation is certainly a victory, but like most battles, does not mean you come out the other side the same. Of course we all know that we will die one day. Intellectually, we know that. So why is it such a shock when you are actually confronted with a moment in time where you realise that this really could be that day?
Because, my heavens, it is. A shock. One BIG, LOUD, HORRIBLE SHOCK.
Some moments I find my mind drifting to what it will be like when Tim comes home. With both of us nursing our injuries – physical and psychological – will we lean on each other like two wounded soldiers and emerge closer for it, or will our combined forces just spiral us out of control like a tornado of trauma? It is then that I have to stop myself. I cannot think about the future. I can’t even think about tomorrow. Again, again, I am reminded of the one lesson I am clinging onto in the midst of all this insanity.
One day at a time.
In fact, at times this has become “One hour at a time.” “One meal at a time.” “One nap at a time.”
To twist matters more, I find myself eyeing off the doors of the emergency department at this particular hospital with a sense of almost time-travel: these are the exact doors, this is the exact building, that is the exact emergency department which – some twenty-five years ago – my own mother was brought into on the last day I ever saw her.
But that is a whole other story.