My ex-husband had kidney failure. That meant he was on dialysis for almost four years until he got a transplant. Dialysis three times a week, times fifty-two weeks a year, times four plus years…
How many times did I pick him up from the hospital? Probably at least 300, whether it was sunny weather, or minus 30C and blizzarding. Add to that the number of times I accompanied him to doctors’ appointments, or got a nudge in my back in the middle of the night when he thought he might be having a heart attack and needed me to take him to emerg, or watched over him after his surgeries and procedures, or carried his boxes of dialysis fluids and equipment from the basement to the bedroom when he dialysed at home, or picked him up off the floor when his blood pressure dropped so low he passed out, or helped him pump the blood back into his body when we had a power failure and the dialysis machine ‘died’….
For the fifteen years after his diagnosis, I was there as his support, his advocate… his ‘soft place to land’, my arms open to him when his tears came. But that’s what you do, isn’t it, when you love someone. You do it willingly and lovingly, wishing you could take their pain away.
Cut to today.
I’ve had a minor heart issue most of my life. Apart from three visits to emerg over the decades, it’s been held stable by medication for 30 years. But over the past couple of months, I’ve felt things weren’t quite ‘right’. So I went to see my doctor today. He’s not overly anxious, but he agrees things aren’t as they should be. It’s been at least ten years since I last saw a cardiologist, so my doctor is sending me for a battery of tests. What happens next will depend on the results. In reality, it’ll probably just mean a tweak of my meds…
I’ll be honest, I’m running scared. What if it’s not just a tweak of my meds?
I started crying in the car afterwards because what I wanted – what I needed at that moment – was for the husband I thought I’d had to put his arms around me, hold me safe and tell me it will be all right.
But that can never happen.
I’m not alone in this experience, so I shouldn’t be such a baby. Everyone who is on their own – whether from divorce, bereavement – must experience moments like this where you just want that someone to hold you. My own widowed mother went through major heart surgery when she was in her mid-70s. My brother, sister and myself, gathered around, did everything we could for her… and I know she appreciated it. But I’m sure it wasn’t our arms she really wanted around her, comforting her.
I’ll be fine. I know I will. My kids and friends are there to love and support me. But today I’m scared. Today I just wish it was five years ago, before this whole divorce thing happened, and I could relax into one of his hugs, feel his arms around me, his breath against my skin… and feel I wasn’t – for today – quite so alone.