Here I am at bedside about 9-10 hours a day. No complaints. Peggy is there 24 hours every day for the past 14 days. Time does not hang heavy. I’ve never read the newspaper so thoroughly. I move her pillows around. Advocate for nurses to come. Occasionally catch two medications which are contra-indicated. I hold her hand through tough moments. Reassure her and she, me. Mostly what I do is be present so when she opens her eyes, I’m there.
It’s a kind of dance. Gently pushing, then pulling back. She needs to rev her engine, to get up and take a few steps. I’m the coach urging her on. She also needs to blow into a spirometer ten times every hour to clear her lungs and prevent pneumonia. I’m the guy who has become the taskmaster. She’s still shaking off the anesthetic. She wants to give it a rest. To be 97 means that all your bones are also 97. She has a neuropathy in her feet, bed sore on her rear, an arthritic neck and shoulder, spinal stenosis and that incision on her front. Everything hurts but the way out is through.
Peggy has had two dreams about earthquakes as if to acknowledge that her architecture has been insulted…yet still holding together with a few retrofits here and there.
I’m also resistant. I’m learning how to tell time on a new clock. Progress appears to be excruciatingly slow. Some days seem to move counter-clockwise. I find myself moving in slow-motion. There are pot holes on the road to recovery. I need to adapt to hospital time.
About ten days ago there was a fierce wind blowing, particularly through the canyon formed by high-rise medical buildings around the hospital. I found myself following the dervish of trees and swirling leaves outside the window. The agitation of the plants matched my own unease ultimately quieted down when all went still.
News of her progress comes at me from two surgeons, an oncologist, internist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist and pulmonologist. They don’t always agree. She needs to rest. She needs to walk. Her diet should be liquid. No, she should take solids. The heart doctor, fearful of a recurrence of pulmonary embolism, says to resume her blood-thinner. The surgeons say to keep the blood thick mindful of excessive bleeding. She’ll be leaving tomorrow. She might be staying another week. My need to know has yielded to a need to shut up and let everything take its own course.
My time at the hospital is not a chore. It’s an opportunity to express love. I cherish my hours spent with Peggy and this is a way to express it as we discover together a calm at the center of this quake.