The first time I knew that I was a grown-up -that moment and the events leading up to it are imprinted on my memory. It remains embossed, a soft puckering created by hard pressing.
As I write this, my husband sleeps sweetly beside me, stirs softly, his chest rises and falls, rises again, his cheek flushed pink from where it pressed against the pillow. I write. He sleeps. I remember….
September 15, 2004
My cell phone had a few missed calls as I finished a client’s office visit. Answering the next ring, caller ID’d as my husband, a female voice spoke. She told me that my husband is being taken to the Medical Center, that he is in the ambulance, that they think he has had a heart attack. Hearing every word, realizing that she has not said “he is alive”, knowing that I have to get to him, afraid that if I hear that he is dead I won’t be able to drive. I ask, “Is he responsive?” Her perfect reply, “Yes.”
Driving into the city at rush hour, the traffic flowed slow and steady on my side. In the opposite direction it as was thick like molasses. Driving and praying. A new mantra repeatedly pressing it’s staccato rhythm into my head: The Widow’s Club, I don’t want to join the Widow’s Club. The Widow’s Club, I don’t want to join the Widow’s Club….
Quickly depositing my car in the darkened parking garage, jogging across darker street, light from headlamps slashing past.
Entering the bright ER, first my pupils constrict, then my heart. My sweet man! He lays on a gurney, clammy, scared and in and pain. Ashen really is a color. In this blazing white room, my beloved is the color of damp ashes.
Softly squeezing his hand- too hard. He winces, pulls away, immediately reaches back. He needs me even if it hurts.
Standing sentry, my hands pressed soft and steady right where he placed them, I hear the overhead call for the cardiac cath team to gather as the impeccable PA tells us the cardiac surgeon is arriving, that they think (what we know) this is a MI, a heart attack. In her pressed white lab coat and expensive (but sensible) heels, she then turns and taps away.
Pacing outside the cardiac catheterization room, now it is my shoes tapping. Being firmly escorted to a dime sized waiting room stuffed with one phone, two chairs and a humming Pepsi machine. Pacing again, tap, tap, tap. Back and forth past the off limits Cath room, this time glaring when anyone begins to speak. They leave. I pace, lioness protecting her injured mate.
Making calls alone -our children, some friends, his family, my father. (Oh, how are the kids? Are they ok? They are scared. I should be with them. -Stop!) A new mantra presses into me: Be here now. He needs you, here, now.
Calling my husband’s parents. Quickly and gently telling them that their 59 year old son, their baby, is having a heart attack. Knowing that my beloved is their beloved son. Knowing that I was giving this news to a mother. Knowing that no matter what age our children are, they are still our babies. Knowing that I needed to speak calmly so that my in-laws could hear hope, even as their hearts shattered. Knowing that my words, my cellular presence were being pressed permanently into them.
This moment, when I stood alone, simultaneously holding all these thoughts and telling my in-laws about their son’s heart, this moment is when I knew I was a grown-up.
May all babies be born into loving hands