Oh Lord it Feels Like I’m Dyin’.
Only I wasn’t tied to a whippin’ post. I was just working.
I spent Friday night in the GW Emergency Room. I thought (and so did they when I got there) that I was having a heart attack. I had been sitting at my desk when all of the sudden I just started feeling very, very wrong. Throw in that for the last 2 weeks my Dr and I had been trying to figure out why I’d been having all sorts of pain in my arm/shoulder/chest and yeah, I bolted for the ER.
The long and the short of it is that I was not having a heart attack, but am dealing with ulcers or GERDS (still figuring that out) coupled with Pericarditis (basically swelling of the lining of the heart) and/or Pleurisy. (swelling of the lining of the lungs) The pain was hard to describe, and the fact that it was coming from the left side of my chest made it, in a word; terrifying.
Understand, I quit smoking in January. I gave up drinking to excess. (I am a Ninja Jedi Champ of hard drinking) I gave up every bad habit I had (and I had a few) and have been trying to take much, much better care of myself these days…and then BANG. I am in the ER, can’t breathe, and have a team of people trying to get an EKG attached to me. And the worst, worst, WORST part of it?
My fiance sitting there watching this all with a shell shocked look on her face. And there’s nothing I can do. Nothing I can say. I can barely speak b/c the pain and the shortness of breath is just so paralyzing. I wanted to say “I love you”. I wanted to say “I’m sorry”. I just wanted.
And then I heard the words “It’s not a heart attack”. While it didn’t make this attack of whatever it was STOP,it certainly brought out a chorus of “thankyougodthankyougodthankyougod”.
I spent the better part of the night in the ER getting blood work, chest Xrays, etc. (Ironically, my lungs are amazingly clear for anyone, let alone a long time former smoker. My heart, according to my EKG, is fine, too…aside from the swelling) I slept on and off. The pain would come and go, but never reach the level that it had when I first got to the ER. I started thinking of all kinds of things that came from all kinds of places. My nieces. My dad. The coast of Maine and the hills of Vermont where I grew up. Yankees games in Fenway park. And of course, my fiance…and the TV show Six Feet Under. No kiddin’.
There’s an episode in which an old black man wakes up one day and finds his wife dead beside him. They have been married for something like 40 years, and he’s burying her alone. He’s an ornery old cuss, and I dug that about him. He tells Nate that he “don’t know shit about shit when it comes to love”…and he says at one point that she left him for 6 months once years before, and that it was his own damn fault. And that now that she’s gone, those 6 months were like a hole inside of him. Six more months he could have had with her….gone.
The irony of that, in the time I spent in that hospital, was hard for me to miss. My girl and I were apart for six months. We had started taking each other for granted after 2 years together. We stopped talking. We just kinda coasted. We were together, but we weren’t really there. And one day she said to me, “Do you think we’re going to break up”. I didn’t think, really. I just said “Yes”. And we did….just like that.
We went our separate ways. I went on a bender that I really didn’t even think about. I wasn’t moping…it wasn’t shock. But I found myself at one particular DC bar night after night with a group of friends and regulars. And I mean EVERY NIGHT. Every day I’d get up and go to work. Every night I’d go back to Foggy Bottom, drink, watch baseball, and stumble home.
We were always in touch, and we always talked. We actually talked much, much more openly about what we’d become and why than we really ever had before. We got to know each other on a deeper level than we’d ever really even tried to before, and lo and behold, we didn’t take each other for granted anymore. We started remembering why exactly we’d made it to 2 years in the first place.
The rest…well, that’s history. But lying in that hospital, I realized that what I WANTED was more time with her. Not just more time. With HER. I wanted to take her to Fenway in a Yankees hat. To show her everywhere I love in New England. I want MORE.
But that 6 months? I know what he meant. It is like a hole in me now…and we’re both filling it up. I didn’t NEED a reminder, but a night in the ER…chest pains…the look on her face…and the thought that I might be seeing it for the last time?
Yeah…I got it. Every minute counts. EVERY. MINUTE.
Of course…now she wants to elope. Go fucking figure.