Robby and I stayed up way too late the other night talking about the hardest things we’ve ever done, and wondering if Covid-19 would eventually top our list.
First off, we got married at 19 and 22, after knowing each other for only six months. At the time it didn’t SEEM hard--it literally felt like fun and games; playing house. But looking back at the task of smashing two very different lives together so suddenly is quite the feat, if I do say so myself.
2008 is a year we will never forget (although we would like to). The economy tanked, the bank Robby worked for went under. He got a new job (phew!) and two months later that bank went under as well. It was in that same month that I was (mis)diagnosed with MS. We agreed that 2008 was not our favorite.
Two and a half years ago we bought a house, stripped it down to it’s nethers and had a little over a month to slop it back together so we could move in. The same week we closed on the house, I started my very first nursing job. Three night shifts a week + 2 days of classes for my Bachelors’ program, and I didn’t even have a bedroom to sleep in when I came home. Those months are still a blur, and I blame that time period for my random grey hairs.
We talked about our struggles, laughed about them, and realized everything seems so small after time works it’s magic.
I then recalled MY hardest moment.
2012. Robby left for Africa on a Saturday. My stomach hurt, I felt sick. Most likely normal feelings since I’d never been away from him for three weeks, and he was flying across the world.
Sunday I woke up, legitimately sick. Sweaty. Fevered. The smell of the kids' breakfast sent me running to the bathroom. We napped and watched movies all day.
“Nerves” I told myself. Robby’s still on his all day flight. I’ll feel better once he lands” He landed Monday and I struggled to pull myself out of bed. I dropped Lucy at preschool and Jonah at his first grade classroom and headed out to fix the problem. A run fixes everything (I was very wrong on this one).
With every single step, pain radiated through my body, stemming from the right side of my stomach. (YOU now realize what is going on, don’t you??! Why didn’t I?) I continued to lightly jog down the hill, and finally realized this was NOT helping. I turned around and climbed the mile back up. Hurting, dripping, rolling my eyes at my own stupidity.
I panicked. Not because I had a feeling about what might be wrong, but because I had NO idea what to do with my kids (because remember, Robby was in Africa! Of all places!) We lived in an old neighborhood with even older neighbors and we really had NO ONE. No people. Our only friends had moved about an hour away. I got Lucy from school and made arrangements with a family I somewhat knew from Jonah’s class--they had kids my kids’ age; I figured I’d be back as soon as I could to get them.
The doctor came in the room “you have a very unhappy appendix, it needs to come out right away”.
I had already been on the phone with my mom, she was leaving from Montana and would be there early in the morning.
“Ok. I’ll have to do the surgery tomorrow?”
He laughed--thought I was kidding (I was not). “We can’t. Tomorrow could be an entirely different story, we could be cleaning you out after it bursts. You’d be stuck here for weeks and be opened up top to bottom” (as a nurse, I have now SEEN this, and I am grateful it did not become my fate).
“Ok...but I have nowhere for my kids to go. My mom is coming. I can-----can we-----I----I can’t...” “We need to get your appendix out NOW.”
They brought me a gown, slipped an IV into my arm. This was happening.
I called my friend an hour away. She got the kids, fed the dog, eased my worried mind for a minute.
And then I realized I was about to have surgery. Alone. Every time someone came in the room they said “is anyone in the hall? Can I call someone for you? Do you have anyone---”
“--My husband is in Africa”.
It sounded made up.
There was no way to call or text Africa, so I sent Robby an email “oh hey, just so you know, I’m heading in to surgery have my appendix out, talk soon, hug hug kiss kiss” (for the record, he was quite literally playing with baby lions at the moment).
I sat on my flimsy mattress in my open back gown and decided that I couldn’t do this.
They wheeled me furiously around too many corners, reminding me of the tiny bundle of inflammation ready to burst from my body. I threw up again. Flat on my back in bed, they left me in the hall outside of the operating room, “someone will get you in a minute”.
A minute that felt like two days. I stared at the ceiling and prayed and wished and hoped that I would feel any kind of peace or calm or readiness. I just needed to feel SOMETHING.
All I felt was “I can NOT do this. They are going to knock me out. Cut me open. And I'm alone. I can’t”.
I heard footsteps down the hall. HOPE!!
It was a janitor; he passed without notice.
I think a tumbled weed rolled by.
I was most definitely alone.
I waited and waited and waited for the calm to wash over me.
It never did.
So I did my own washing.
I HAVE TO DO THIS. I have to do this, alone.
And I did. I woke and it was done. Quite literally instant relief from the pain that had me doubled over for the entire day. I asked to see my appendix, they’d tossed it. Life’s regrets.
I was in and out of drug induced sleep for hours, and in the middle of the night when the nurse came to check my vitals, I looked and laughed at my email from Robby: “WAIT, WHAT!?”
The appendectomy was not hard. I literally just laid there while they did all the work.
It FELT hard because I was alone. It’s easier to deal with stress, pain, fear, and the unknown when we are doing it together.
If THIS, currently, right now...our world situation is the HARDEST thing we all have to do...at least we are in it, together. Feeling the same fears, anxieties, and worries for tomorrow. No one is alone in this, isn’t that a relief? Time will move in it’s mysterious ways, and in a few years we will all have a story to tell, each of us adding our own chapter to the history book. I am going to head out for a run. While it may not fix an unhappy appendix, it does fix just about everything else. Who’s with me?