My husband loves to remind me of the four words that signal doom in a relationship with a woman: “We need to talk.” From the few close female relationships I’ve had in my life, I know what he means. Any time I’ve heard that phrase uttered by a woman, I run for cover and am thankful when I’m not the target.
This week, I had a different type of heart chat. When my beloved husband woke up on Wednesday morning, he told me that he had been up with chest pains. Breathe, I told myself. It could be esophagitis, acid reflux, or many other gastrointestinal pains. My husband, at 43, is one of the most relaxed, funny, sweet, and genuinely wonderful people on this planet. Heck– he’s put up with me for almost 13 years now. That should count for something. I told him to take it easy and continued on with my morning.
Later, when he texted me to tell me that he was having dizzy spells, I started to panic a little. He talked with the on-call nurse at our HMO at got some good advice, and decided to come into work a little earlier than usual since we work at a school that has a terrific medical department and nurses on staff. I figured that was a safe place, too, as I was literally less than a minute from him at any place in the building. We visited his doctor, and since he is temporarily uninsured, we opted to take the less-expensive road and adopt a wait-and-see approach.
That evening, he started getting dizzier and decided to go to the emergency room. They did a chest x-ray and EKG before I arrived. When I got there, the nurse explained that my darling man had asked for a bow tie and white cuffs if he was going to have to have his shirt off. This is one thing I love the best about him: Even at the darkest, scariest times, he has his sense of humor. It’s a shame that they didn’t have the proper accessories for him, though.
The next day rolled around, and he wasn’t in much pain, but noticed a burning sensation near one of his lymph nodes. Dizziness returned, and I went to go relieve him from work. I took one look at his ashen face and darn near lost control over my emotions right then. The plan was that my mom would run him to the hospital and I would finish teaching his class for him. By the time I got to the place where I needed to tell someone what was happening, I lost the battle with my own anxiety. Needless to say, I got out of there and went over to the hospital, expecting to be with him. But he wasn’t there. What?
No, he had gone home and was resting peacefully. I, on the other hand, was a basket case. In the few minutes between seeing his ashen face and getting to my car, it occurred to me that this lovely man could really be in more health problems than I cared to imagine. I also realized in that time that I cannot bear the thought of not having him in my life. That may sound sappy, but for me that’s a earth-rocking realization.
I’ve always been an independent person, even as a child. I’m not sure when it started, but I have striven to be independent in as many ways as possible. In my previous marriages (which were when I was very young), I depended a lot on my mates and got burned by that dependence twice. So I shielded my heart in ways that my husband hadn’t ever breached. I can be ok without him, I told myself. I know how to function on my own, I’ve done so before, and I could do so again if needed. But then in an eyeblink, my wall crumbled. I need this man as much as I need my children, air, water, food, and everything else we depend on to stay alive. The wall is broken, and I think he knows it, watching me get mad at him like a mother does when she finds her lost child: mad on the surface, but terrified underneath.
The next morning, we visited his doctor, who assured us that his heart is physically beautiful and flawless. Most likely, he has a combination of issues, the most obvious being a pinched nerve. I was numb in the realization that he was truly alright.
So here’s the heart to heart part:
His heart is as beautiful and perfect on the inside as it is on the outside. My heart just lost a very thick wall.
It’s not a heart to heart that I want to have again anytime soon. Our anxiety was palpable, and it was more frightening than the big drop-off on our favorite roller coaster. But how much growth in such a short span of time!