My husband is in the room next to me recovering from shoulder surgery. We got up at 4.30, showered and left for the hospital at 5am. By 6.45 they were wheeling him into surgery.
Walking into the hospital was just like any other day in our marriage. We were both a little nervous, and certainly overtired, but there was no change in our dynamic. Signing the paperwork was the same as it always is, we looked at it together.
And then I was left in a waiting room, shivery cold and tired. Since the waiting room was effectively two large rooms divided by a kitchenette I retreated to the back half away from the elderly spouses and the crackly morning shows. I pushed four chairs together, put ear buds in and laid down for a nap.
I vaguely heard a shrill nurse yell, “Jessica!” And as I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes and standing up I saw my husband disappear around the corner on a gurney and into the operating room. He’s going to think I don’t love him. I spent the next three hours waiting and hoping that my husband would know how much I love him, and that he didn’t get wheeled into surgery feeling alone. It was easier to worry about that than the possibility of an error either surgical or with anethesia.
And then the surgeon came into the room with a spring in his step. I found his smile to be the best of all guarantees, he explained what he found, showed me pictures of the procedure and explained that there was a very real cause of the pain Mr G had been having, and that he’d cut it out. It was all very routine. I was happy.
The nurses followed a half hour later, and I followed my husband on a gurney into a recovery room that was too bright, too loud and too crowded. Paramedics were bringing in newly injured patients and others were waking up. Both sets of patients groaned a lot and I wanted them all to leave so that my husband could be more comfortable.
Watching my husband emerge from the fog of anethesia was an incredible moment. Though it’s a feeling completely without merit, I’ve never felt like I’m the one who takes care of anyone here. I’ve always felt like my husband takes care of me, the kids, and the house. There’s never been a day, not even when he’s been ill or traveling, that I’ve felt like I was really on my own.
For thirty minutes today I felt like it was just me and it was a horrible feeling. For thirty short minutes I was my husband’s caretaker and I remain convinced that it’s a job I cannot do well.
I’ve loved my husband for fifteen years. I’ve loved his strengths, I’ve loved him in spite of his weaknesses. I’ve loved him for giving me children that look like him and share his unending generosity of spirit. I’ve loved him because he’s taken care of me, and I’ve loved doting on him because that’s the marriage we both wanted.
And now we’re going to experiment with some new roles, and I’ll be tying his shoes for a few days, and I’ll be the driver not the passenger. He’s going to have trouble letting me help him, that much is easy to see, and it’s also quite encouraging.
I knew when I married him that we’d grow old together but I didn’t realize that we’d have a little practice run in the middle of our lives.