All day long I think of lines I should put to paper. As they knit themselves out of my thoughts I think, That one is a keeper. And then—because I've spent nearly every waking hour of the last few days scrambling to prove to state agencies that my husband exists, that he had two jobs, that neither provided him with insurance, that he then had a stroke, and that his inability to work has left us drowning in financial tumult—when I come home and think that I should update this blog those words are lost somewhere in the fog between two rivers.
The first flows chaotically on choppy waves of happenstance that adorn my juggling-act life. The other is less definable: the current where my husband resides, flowing in and out of dreams about stem cell research and nurses who will let him have Strawberry Surfrider Jamba Juice with extra ice, sometimes peaceful, other times confusing. Savage like grace.
This morning he said, "Here's a strange thing: last night I think B— was here asking me the normal questions." These are: What is your name? Where are we? What is your birthday? What month is it?
Somehow in the blur between Saturday morning, when I first brought my nine-year-old son to the hospital to see his dad after a week's absence, and the lonely hours of that night when I went home to care for the needs of our five children, my husband tangled up details—the identity of who was performing his care. I insisted that, no, B— hadn't been here. But my husband said otherwise. Perhaps angels wear masks.
I've been promised that our rivers will converge again. I've been told swelling abates of its own accord, and the 11mm midline shift of his brain will eventually return to 0 and stay there without the saline IV and the Manitol. At some point my husband will find his way through the fog. He will stabilize. We will keep working to restore the strength and timing of his swallowing reflex so that he can eat and drink without the feeding tube threaded through his nose, into his small bowel.
This morning, when I helped nurse Rally to bathe my husband, wash and comb his hair, change his hospital gown, I noticed the intense bruising on Mr. PNU's right arm and chest. Yesterday, after B—'s visit, nurse Jacqueline, who didn't like that she'd been moved to ICU for the day, took out her frustrations on my husband. When he wouldn't rouse to her liking she pinched his arms and chest, leaving ugly purple bruises where the blood vessels burst beneath her fingers. As I carefully cleansed him with the sponges Rally provided, I tearfully kissed these bruises, promising my husband I would personally see that nurse Jacqueline not oversee his care again.
I feel guilty that I ever leave his bedside. But I'm not certain how to be everywhere and all things necessary to my family. I am slave to my human frailty.
When I crawl into the tiny hospital bed alongside him, my husband is happiest. He claims he can feel me when I lay in the crook of his arm on his left side. I suspect that feeling he perceives is security, not my weight and texture, but I am desperately hoping he still feels that I am in this, right now, even when I am a mile and a half away. Because, although I promised I wouldn't leave him, I gave in to fatigue and left him alone tonight in the east ICU wing at 5 p.m. Someone must care for the children. That someone must sometimes sleep.
I tell myself that I must believe it is enough that mighty prayers are being uttered on our behalf. Prayers and influence that course through my body like warm lightning and fill me with strength that is not mine, and peace that I should not logically know, because God is in this too. And so I surrender to the fog, ride the current, trust that the river that carries my husband is living water. This is my greatest hope when he is alone, his mouth parched; when he lays helpless and fragile, and nothing else will quench his thirst.