There are circumstances every once in a while that make us pause and think about our lives and more specifically our mortality; those times in which we remember what’s truly important and reevaluate why we put things off for the right time. Those circumstances can be instances of actual life or death on the line, and others are less serious reminders of how off the rails something could go. In either case we are left with the reminder that life is indeed short and can change in an instant.
Not long after we got back from our trip to warm, sunny, southern California last week, Kurt came down with what we now know was the flu. Thankfully he had his flu shot (I have never gotten a flu shot and somehow didn’t get sick, but that’s a discussion for another day). I am glad he got the shot as the virus seemed to pass quickly and when I left for work Saturday morning he seemed to be much, much better.
Sunday morning we were in the ER. I honestly thought they were going to pump him with fluids and perhaps antibiotics and send him home. It was a little more serious. Whether from the flu or a cough, the rhythm of his heart was thrown off and ultimately they needed to shock it back. Various tests and then scheduling the procedure took some time and he wound up spending two and half days in the hospital. He’s now home and everything is returning to normal. He was even told once all the flu symptoms cleared out – lingering cough and congestion – he could get back to running. All good. But the experience left us both in a state of contemplation.
“It’s easy to see how people wind up in the hospital and never leave,” he said at one point. We both knew from the experiences we each had caring for our parents as they aged how often one could arrive in the ER for one issue and be found to have other complications. And that was just it. While we recalled experiences in caring for our parents we were facing the reality that it was now one of us.
I was sensitive to the vulnerability he may have felt not being completely in control and giving up some of that control to me. This was the first time as a couple we were faced with potential medical decisions. I felt his love deeply and the trust he placed in me, which served to strengthen those feeling I have for him. I also significantly missed not having him at home, something I perhaps had been taking for granted.
Spending two nights alone in the townhome we share was weird. Until last August this had been his place. I’ve had some difficulty feeling completely at home there. While I thoroughly enjoy being there, it has still felt like his place. I’ve left him in complete charge of maintaining the home and taking care of me. That wasn’t easy for me when we first started dating, but since I moved out here, I let the pendulum swing far in the other direction.
This week, whether he liked it or not, I got to take take of him. I felt good in this role. When he found me I was a bit broken. He did so much to put the pieces back together. He was supportive, patient and kind. In him I found someone I could trust with all my heart and he showed me I was capable of love again. I allowed him to take care of me when I was usually more comfortable in the care-giver roll. This past week, I felt a balance return. This time he needed me, and I was able to be there for him.
There is a vulnerability in getting older – and he’s extra sensitive to this because he is eight and a half years my senior – but for this I draw on memories of my parents as well. Sometimes she took care of him and sometimes it was him taking care of her. He was several years older as well. Regardless, they were always stronger together.
This was one of those circumstances that made me pause. While everything was fine, it reminded me that he is the love I waited for my entire life. Even while sick, all the little things that make him so special continued to shine through. Like how he has the incredible ability to remember everyone by name. How kind he is to everyone around him – from the cardiologist to the cleaning staff. He makes other people feel valued. He is the most generous person I know. He is always willing to share his time, resources and knowledge to make someone else’s experience easier. I truly believe he recruited a few new runner’s from the hospital staff!
There is never a right time to do anything. But I’ve learned that lesson over and over, and today is Valentine’s Day after all. I’m using this occasion to tell you about my Valentine. He is what I’ve been running towards all these years. I don’t know if I’m lucky, or fortunate, or deserving, but at the very least, I’m grateful to have Kurt in my life. I will never take that for granted. I don’t want to plan a single day in this short life that doesn’t include him. My Valentine is THAT special.
Happy Valentine’s Day!