My uncle is having open heart surgery today. This is my father’s younger brother and the father of my cousin / maid of honor / honorary nose wiper. Yes, I mean that cousin, the same one who dropped everything and hopped a flight to be by my side when A was in the hospital, despite the fact that she hates to fly!
Recently, the doctors had found blockages in my uncle’s heart during testing related to a couple of knee surgeries and they opted to operate. So he is, at the time of this posting, somewhere in the middle of a what is expected to be a 6-hour surgery.
When P first told me about her father, it poked at all kinds of raw nerves, bringing up long distant memories of my own father’s open heart surgery, and the more recent ones of A’s time in the hospital from his heart attack. I knew this would be a difficult time for me, and I know that sounds selfish and self-centered, but it’s the truth.
So for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to be supportive, but from a bit of a distance, feeling somewhat guilty for this “conditional” support. A few days ago, however, I finally pulled on my big girl pants and let her know I was here for her. Really here for her. If she can jump on a plane last minute – something she absolutely fears – then I can “suck it up, buttercup” and symbolically prop her up from a distance.
Obviously, she is not the only one who needs my support; my aunt and two other cousins are all in the same position, anxiously waiting to see my uncle quietly recovering when the surgery is finally complete.
But as my maid of honor, the cousin who was closest to a sister to me growing up, the first friend with whom I would make actual mud pies (yes, I grew up in the sticks where we had to make our own fun, and incidentally, sticks were used as birthday candles on our mud pies), the young woman who would stand beside me on my wedding day and unashamedly use her long gloves to wipe my runny nose for me because my hands were otherwise committed during the ceremony and who eventually became the woman who, despite seeing each other only a few times in the previous 16 or so years, would run to be by my side in a time of crisis and make a promise to my husband on what would prove to be his death bed that she would be there to take care of us if he couldn’t, she definitely has as much support as I can possibly give her. She deserves that, and much more.
It’s not going to be easy. Earlier today when I sent her a quick text to let her know I was thinking of her, she sent back a picture of her father prior to be wheeled off to prep for surgery. The image of him in a hospital gown, looking very much like my own father (minus the beard), and giving two thumbs up, which reminded me of A in the hospital, nearly did me in. Actually, it did do me in and the tears fell nearly my whole ride to work.
As much as I’ve tried to steel myself against what I know to be serious triggers for me, I was unprepared for the onslaught of emotion one simple photograph could induce.
I suppose that one instant is essentially the essence of widowhood, the months of grieving condensed into a single moment – even when you think you are prepared to face the world, when you have readied yourself to handle whatever situation you might encounter, when you have braced yourself for an emotional assault, you can never be truly equipped for those unexpected events. You simply cannot plan to be at the ready at all times, no matter how much you may want to. And believe me… I want to.
All that is left, then, is to prepare as much as possible, but also remember that when the unexpected happens – and it will happen – the best thing you can do is simply ride out the wave and remember that the calmer seas are waiting just on the other side.
Now while I wait to hear how things are going, I’m going to continue to pray. No matter what your beliefs, if you could keep this big galoot in your thoughts and prayers, it would be greatly appreciated by all, I’m sure. Especially by the best nose-wiper this side of the Mississippi.
I love you, P. Lean on me, I’ve got this. And I’m here for you. For a change…
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