Trauma–Letter to a Husband
It was on my yoga mat early one morning
that life took one more crazy turn for me,
just a kink I never could straighten out after that.
Somewhere between my downward dog and warrior pose
came your admission, words softly spoken from the bed,
that the most severe headache ever had occurred in the night,
entering the room like a silent stalker,
omen of a darkness yet to come.
Alarms rang inside of me.
Aneurism, I thought.
Don’t they say it causes the worst headache ever?
I rose from the mat and directed you to get dressed.
We would go to the hospital, I decided,
and you, who balks at doctors, got up and came with me,
sitting silently beside me as I drove, composure a sham.
And then the CAT scan confirmation of the aneurism,
the ambulance call to transport you to the medical center,
and my lonely trip following, heart racing, breathing uncertainty.
More tests and then to the ICU
where you were surprised to find you were not in a private room,
unaware of the seriousness of this moment in our lives.
I stayed with you days and nights,
how many I don’t remember.
At times I slept in a chair next to you,
even though I knew I was not supposed to.
And I remembered other nights at my sister’s bedside,
sleeping in the room with her until she died,
and I wondered if this was just a nightmare and not a repetition.
The ice storm came a few days later with a ferocity
even greater than usual for upstate New York,
causing tree branches to drop like autumn leaves.
I drove home that day between the freezing rain episodes,
hoping I could drive on the icy expressway.
At home the yard was covered with frozen branches.
I pulled into the driveway smoothly glazed over in silver,
listening to the branches snap and fall around me,
holding on to the car as I slid to open the garage door,
staying only a few minutes to shower and change clothes,
and then I slid back to the car.
The freezing drizzle had begun again,
the drive more complex now.
At the hospital that night I slept on a cot in the lounge,
and there was a man already there on his own cot.
I thought how odd, two strangers, a man and a woman,
sleeping on cots in the same room.
His wife, he told me, had had a stroke.
In the morning I sat alone on a chair in the hallway,
remembering the last time I was in this hospital,
my sister’s mastectomy, a sister I loved with all my being,
my sister who did not survive breast cancer like I did,
and now I feared this place, this ICU,
where people were struggling to survive strokes,
and where you lay quietly in a bed among them
recovering from an aneurism that kills most people
even before they can reach the hospital.
Finally you were well enough to go home,
after complications and setbacks,
and I drove again on the wintry roads
but now with you by my side,
and you settled on the sofa and slept.
Only from then on it was not really you,
not the you I knew before the bleed.
Nothing was the same
now that I had seen you vulnerable for the first time.
Some days I can actually forget we have been through this.
But then there are those days
when I get angry at having to be the memory for both of us,
impatient with the depression, fighting my own,
fearful of the anger I see in you,
and when I can get beyond the trauma,
I feel ashamed of myself for my weakness and my sadness
when really I think I should be joyful for survival.
I miss who we were, the former selves we lost
amid the brain bleed and the renegade cancer cells
we both fought so hard to overcome.
We are left here with an emptiness neither of us can overcome.
When I wake now in the morning and I hear you breathing beside me,
I wait for the joy and relief I should feel but which never comes
because in an instant mere survival can become all there is.
© Barbara Flass 2011