January 11, 2016
I can’t breathe. My life is reduced to anticipation of a beep on the monitors. Lines reflect bedraggled heartbeats. The numbers leap into dangerous zones, then recede like a storm-swept tide.
I watch a man, once a fount of strength, fade into bleach-thinned pillows. I can’t sleep. When I close my eyes, he lurches forward with accusation, his thin frame trembles, and the wounding words reverberate like a remembered thunderclap.
My voice shakes as I tell my kids. One tears up and, unable to comprehend, bursts into her hallmark nervous laughter. One blinks cold eyes and asks to go shopping. After all, what can be done? The littlest clings to the oldest gal and their lips tremble, a concert of concern. My skins burns, and angry hives mark my anguish. I push the wail boiling within me into a hidden, locked compartment to deal with later when I can be alone.
While at the hospital, I comfort and reassure as best I can. Inadequate. Inexpert. I tremble, realizing my own impotence. I explain the situation to a patient who knows the truth. Hand pats. Light conversations and gentle jokes whose punchlines don’t deserve our laughter. Meaningless card games and discussions of no consequence intersperse the proclamations: “I’ll check myself out. They can’t keep me here.”
Mental states slip. Sleep deprived emotions rear up in hasty words. Oxygen and walkers, breathing treatments and heart failure. Unending pain whittling down. Struggles to keep everyone comfortable and healthy and fed supplant household concerns.
I don’t allow the tears to start, fearing their flood won’t cease. I eat without tasting. The sun beams an incongruity with my sensitive state. Bills mount, needs grow profound, and I drop to my knees, begging for succor and solutions.
The machine beeps regulate. The patient finds an adapted home, struggles, stabilizes.
I return to mine with a renewed understanding of the fragility of life. The ignored emotions burst upon me, railing against my composure, and I cry myself to sleep. He’ll recover, but the experience leaves indelible imprints on my psyche.
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