What was he thinking? Was he thinking it sucked to be sick again? Was he afraid for his life? Did he think about dying? Upset, shocked, defeated most definitely. Was he worried about his kids? His wife? (In that order?) Did the numbers cross his mind? Numbers like 30%, the pieces of paper that were electric and rent bills, days of life lived, 1 year of marriage, 6 months of remission cross the desktop of his mind in a flash before his eyes? It's no wonder I balled my eyes out listening to "Seasons of Love" at the broadway performance of "Rent" in the city less than a month after his hospital release. It was our first post-hospital date. F-- rights: Measure your life in love.
He was only 23. He turned 24 in the hospital. Following the news we received that one fateful night, we didn't talk much. Dialogue was refrained and minimal for the most part. Maybe because we knew there wasn't much that could be said. Maybe because we were too scared to. It's hard to say, even after all this time. A lot was exchanged through knowing looks and reading body language. For the words that were exchanged, it was tactical communication--make sure arrangements were made and that we knew of our own arrangements. That's all.
After leaving the northern town we hardly had time to attach to, the 8-hour ride a blur, we sat in the hospital admissions waiting area. My father-in-law was there, I think my mother-in-law, and our two children. I was still nursing at the time and wondered when the baby would get hungry while praying that I could keep my toddler occupied. By miracle and by grace, she didn't fuss once. At least I don't remember if she did. I think we waited around 4 hours to get through admissions.
The last time we were there was the prior week, being led through a series of halls and waiting rooms before the critical moment of seeing the doctor. For the first time in a long time, I didn't have my girls under my arms while my mother-in-law held them and we followed the nurse into an exam room. It is a room I will never forget.
There was no point in dramatics, no point in questioning. The look on the doctor's face said it all. I wanted answers. I was thinking about my girls in the waiting room, the maddening inconvenience of it all, my poor husband whose legs were dangling over the exam table, desperately needing to throw blame somewhere. I was feeling an absolute loss of control over every single facet of my life. I felt the swelling of heat and anger rise in my throat, the urge to cry and then to scream because no amount of purging would release the knot in my chest, which I would learn was not to go away for a very long time. I opened my mouth to start the barrage, but something of a feeble muttering fell out instead. I was so surprised to hear how weak my own voice sounded.
Being the daughter of a nurse, I knew a fair share of technical vocabulary, how not to be a pushover, and that it was important to ask questions, but it didn't make a very solid bravado. Words and numbers and procedures blurred together. The doctor had done this before. He delivered each stage without sugarcoating the facts but knew that it was not the time to let his years of having to tell patients and families the same devastating news steel his interior and be removed from compassion.
Consultation. Hmph. That's a word for going to the boutique and getting the girl behind the counter to give you make-up suggestions. That's a word you use when you are building a house and considering a loan. It's a word that suggests advice and a choice to follow or agree to that advice, or not. What we got was not advice. It was a professional, life-threatening ultimatum.
We would take the challenge. We would be a family no matter what. And I would show him that he made the right choice in a wife. I ignored the thought that made me think of the damning, cruel twist of it all--of being married so young, being acosted by life so hard, and wishing to flee. I hunkered down, I found my resolve, choked my tears, and braced myself for war. I would cry later. I had a husband who needed me.