Total Eclipse of the Heart

A month ago, my husband had a heart attack. It was completely unexpected and taught me something I didn’t know about myself. (Yes, I’ve made this all about me.) I realized that when life takes a dystopian turn, I don’t panic. I just become very stupid. Uhhhhhhhhhh, is what goes through my head. Or something like it.

I remember calling for an ambulance, clearing a path for the paramedics through our garage, and trying to calm my husband who was busy barking out orders. Stressful situations bring out the sergeant in him, the strict kind. Think Lou Gossett Jr. in ‘An Officer and A Gentleman.’ While he bellowed from the basement sofa, I was being prompted by the 911 operator to ask him questions. ‘Are you clammy? Where is the pain? How is your breathing?’ Meanwhile, he’s trying to grab the phone and holler, ‘Just send the damned ambulance!’ They were already on their way, but try telling that to Lou Gossett Jr.

We got to the hospital and the questions continued. ‘How bad is your pain from a scale of one to ten, with one being the weakest and ten the strongest?’ The air turned so blue, I thought about opening some windows. They asked this every five minutes. When he realized it was protocol, he settled down.

Meanwhile, the doctor in emergency  asked me about my husband’s medication. Proudly, I opened my purse. While they were loading Clarence into the ambulance, I’d calmly walked around and packed up the necessary items. So when I unzipped the top, I was dismayed to find only the creature comforts I’d brought for myself: my kindle and some dark chocolate. ‘I always carry these in case of an emergency,’ I said. ‘You know, in case I’m waiting and I get bored or hungry.’ Dear reader, do you ever listen to yourself and think, I’m a total asshole? It was that kind of moment. Fortunately, they had his medication info in the system.

On the air ambulance to Winnipeg, my husband discussed politics with the nurse the whole way. Finally, about fifteen minutes out, the guy turned to me and said, ‘I’ll give him some fentanyl just to shut him up.’ We exchanged a look of understanding and I went back to reading my kindle. You see? Always bring one with you! I may have secretly nibbled on some chocolate as well.

It took a while for them to put in the stents and by the time he was settled in bed, it was late. Clarence was was positively cheerful at that point. I left with my sister, Jennifer, part of my wonderful built in support system, aka The Hanson Family. It was the next morning that was an eye opener.

I got there late because I felt like I was moving through molasses. You know the feeling when you can’t seem to speed up, even though you’re in a hurry? Then, I couldn’t find the right parking lot. I had a panicked feeling in my chest, and when I walked into his room and saw that he was in a world of pain, I completely lost it. As it turned out, that wasn’t a bad thing. Standing in the hallway crying to a nurse didn’t hurt. They got an anesthetist to come up with a pain plan that worked very well.

But that morning I faced the realization that my husband might die. The thought of living without him blocked out every other good thing in my life. It was a total eclipse of the heart. My heart, not his. I’ve faced this before, as he continues scaring the crap out of me with all his health related shenanigans.

I’m a little bit like him when I’m stressed. “What’s next,’ I asked him, ‘leprosy?’ I guess I sounded a little testy because I got a few strange looks from the nurse. It reminded me of Clarence’s auntie Gladys when her husband stopped breathing one night. They didn’t know about sleep apnea, back then, but she walloped him one and said, ‘You’re not dying and leaving me with this mess, you son of a bitch.’ Which is the Krysowaty way of saying, ‘I love you.’

All is well at the moment. We’ve battened down the hatches, we’re gearing up for winter, and praying for all this damn smoke from forest fires to go away. Things could have been worse. He might have had his heart attack in Houston during all the flooding. As we sat in my sister’s comfortable house, I remember feeling so grateful for it, and for her.  In life there will always be chocolate, but also aggravation. Those small and big moments that make up everyone’s story. If we’re lucky, we’ll experience things that are so awesome, they should be accompanied by a carload of screaming cheerleaders.

And the dark times, those moments of total eclipse where the world is dark and we’re uncertain about what will happen next? We all have them. The days when life hands us lemons and we cannot bring ourselves to make lemonade. We let those suckers rot on the shelf because doing the necessary work feels like rolling a boulder uphill. But. We can live our lives in small moments. In pockets of joy that spring up constantly, if only we choose to notice them. To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, “Always say yes to the present moment. Always dwell in the now.” So if you see me standing somewhere with a goofy look on my face, know that I’m there. And I’m willing to share my chocolate.

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