Friday, October 06, 2006

The Power of Love

We've already had some interesting experiences with Mom's surgery and recovery.

Before you can understand what I'm about to describe, you have to know that in my family, I'm the strange one. The flake. I think too deeply, care too much, try too hard and cry too easily. The rest of my family consists of straight forward, get it done types whose lives are filled with literal tasks and liberal politics. Here's the snapshot: I passed the time during Mom's surgery writing stories; the others did Sudoku.

Okay, with that out of the way, I'll tell you a story.

Mom and Dad have been married for more than 54 years. They started dating when Mom was 14 and Dad was 17 and have never really been apart except for the years my dad was in the Marine Corps. Although they fuss and spat from time to time, they are the most devoted couple I've ever known. Almost pathologically connected.

Dad and I took Mom to the surgery center yesterday and waited while she was dressed and prepped for surgery. When given approval, Dad sat with her until the moment they wheeled her off to the operating room. I met him at the double doors in front the the operating suite and walked him back to the waiting area. My dad, normally a ramrod straight, 6'4" Marine, leaned on me as though I were a cane just to make it 50 feet down the hall, literally staggering under the burden of his fear.

My sister, her husband, her son joined us for the vigil. At some point I got Dad to eat something, but mostly he sat, starring into space and fretting.

Hours passed. The waiting room had been filled at the beginning of Mom's surgery. We were the only ones still there by 4:30 or so.

We all wondered why it was taking soooo long, but none of us voiced our fears. Finally, the nurse in the office beyond the waiting area called out Mom's name. Five heads jerked toward her in unison. She told us the phone on the wall around the corner was going to ring and that the call was for us.

Dad looked pinned to his chair. I don't think he could have moved if the building had burst into flames. My sister looked at her son. Her son looked at her. My brother-in-law looked at the ceiling.

So I, the strange one, the least capable one, the one who always steps aside as the strong ones rush forward, I stood and walked toward the alcove where a black phone was suspended on a gray blue wall. It took forever to cross those 10 or 12 feet. Moving like an automaton, I braced myself and picked up the receiver. A thought about how unlikely it was for me to be the one flitted through my mind before I spoke my name into its depths.

A cheery voice identified itself as belonging to the OR nurse we'd met earlier. Melanie explained that the surgeon had asked her to call and let us know that Mom was doing fine but that the surgery was taking longer than anticipated because her problems were more extensive than he had realized. She assured me that everything was going well despite the time-consuming nature of the repairs.

As I listened, I mouthed "She's ok" toward my nephew, who had a clear view from his seat. He, in turn, tried to reassure my dad, but Dad could not even open his eyes while he awaited the news. After thanking the nurse and asking her to thank the doctor for us, I returned to the waiting area to spread the word.

Dad was slumped in a chair, his elbows resting on his knees and his head buried in his palms. My sister, the eldest, the one who can find a way to do anything, watched me cross the room. When I repeated the nurse's words, everyone burst into tears.

When Mom awoke later, Dad returned to her bedside to hold her hand until she could be released. When the time came, he folded her gently into their car and took a seat beside her. The nurse had judged him too shook up to drive safely, so my sister chauffered them home.

The thing is, they truly are home whenever and wherever they're together. It's not always good. It's not always easy. But it's always home.


Suzy said...

Wow. Beautiful post as always. What a great story.
You are the glue that keeps it all together....Certainly hope your family appreciates this. I am sure your friends do.

Amber said...

Wow, to have a love like that. This is a rare thing.

I think it is funny that you say you are the weak one, because you are the one who feels her emotions. You are JUST the one to be strong now, because you have the practice, emotions not being new to you. See?

ox :)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Wow. What a love story. Now then, not enough has been made of YOUR strengths and blessings to the family!

liz elayne said...

i am just catching up. oh my goodness...i am crying here in my sleepy state of mind.
i am glad she is doing okay...and am so deeply touched by your parents' love.