(part one is here)
The human condition (I assume. Maybe it’s an American condition? A Christian condition?) means we can make ourselves feel guilty for everything. Sure, my husband is in the hospital and we don’t know what is wrong, but it could be worse. I thought of the wife from a popular southern gospel group, who has spent more than a month at her husband’s side after a stroke and complications. I thought of my friend Kelli, who spent weeks by her son’s bedside in a different state, with her teenage daughter, new home, and fairly new husband left behind. It can always be crazier, more complicated, more serious.
But to me, Rod being on major IV nutrients for 36 hours, and then being told one of his levels had gone back down, felt serious. In fact, I think of that moment as when, er, “Shtuff got real.” Because moments before, in the quiet, early-morning moments before visitors and phones, Rod pledged he was coming home that day, Friday. And even though we both played it brave, it wouldn’t make sense for him to come home if things weren’t doing what they were supposed to do.
And meanwhile, life had to go on. I had no sitter for KK on Friday. There were some floors that desperately needed sweeping and clothes that were piling up. There was a very special project at work that also involved “the human condition” (a formerly homeless lady we’d ‘adopted’ was moving into her apartment, and I was already a day late with linens and dishes and things…) that had to be cared for. A friend of mine had received disturbing news, and for that, the world needed to stop for a moment. A single mama at church had a scary situation with her baby in the ER of the same hospital, and no one cries alone in my presence. Another friend had a miracle take place on an operating table, and that needed to be celebrated. And on. As much as I wanted the whole world to stop because mine felt like it was imploding a little bit, I couldn’t. Couldn’t cry. Couldn’t really hug my husband. Couldn’t stop being a grown-up.
That turned out to be the best thing.
The details of Friday, of the whole experience, still unfurl slowly in my head. The summary is that I left Rod at 11am for a full day of Life Stuff, and the more I wanted to head back to him, the more delayed I was. The more I wanted my head to be quiet, the more people reached out (which my heart longs for… and here it was, happening. People in 10 states praying for him. I became a one-woman Rod Burton PR Firm… again! :) The more I longed for things to be resolved, the more out of control they felt (’tis why, inexplicably, in the middle of that crazy day, I swept all my floors and did a load of laundry. That, I could control).
Meanwhile, Rod wasn’t alone. Paige visited…our elder pastors..our friend and his son. The nurses were excellent. The phone calls and texts were abundant (even though he was still being covert about his stay). And then, by the time I drove through Taco Bell with the girls and headed back to the hospital, he had a diagnosis.
It happened without me there to listen, without me there to Google, without me there to hold his hand. We had an answer: Celiac disease. One quick read answered a dozen questions from the last few years, and a weekend of reading has answered countlesss more. The more we know, the more empowered we feel, the his history makes sense to us.
Friday night, when all else was said and done, I sat next to my husband, my best friend, my love, in that teeny and kind of awful hospital bed, and after two pretty sleepless nights, he leaned against my shoulder and fell almost immediately to sleep. That is who we are and that is how we do things, and I know it makes me sound like a high school girl to be all “I just want to be with him,” but I just want to be with him, especially when he is vulnerable. That’s our love story. We do this crazy life together, and we are both better for it.
Rod left the hospital Saturday afternoon, not quite 72 hours after entering. I had left him to shower while I went to buy gluten-free bread and Bisquick (thank you, Kroger), and pick up the girls (thank you, Somalia!). By the time I returned, he was dressed in his Kentucky blue, holding his bags, and waiting in the sunshine for us. We made a few calls, put our phones away, and spent most of the remainder of the weekend resting, reading, snacking on gluten-free food (exotic stuff, like fruit!), and generally being thankful for home and health.
There are a hundred themes that this experience has touched in my life. Fear… control… responsibility… marital love… parental love… the fact that I am my parents’ daughter no matter how old or far away I am… the fact that I married a man 13 years older than me… the fact that some friends are friends who call themselves friends and some friends are there in the trenches…faith, trust, reliance on God – not just for my own peace, but for my husband’s life and my family’s wholeness.
I don’t know that there is any one place where I was supposed to “arrive” through this experience. I do know that some things that seemed challenging before, now seem just fine; in particular, eating healthier and weaning myself from my Internet/iPhone addiction. I know that when the chips are down, it is not just a handful of other people who hold us together: it is God, working through me, The Wife, The Mama, of this beautiful family that was made by His grace! And this family is what God gave me to”do.” It is what I will focus my thoughts on. It is what I am so incredibly thankful for.
Thank you to everyone who called, prayed, cared, visited, and also, to those who have already begun sharing your stories!