Thursday, 13 February 2014

Love Is Like A Human Heart

Yesterday, first thing, there were paramedics in my bedroom. Jay's back has been flaring up a bit this week and and then yesterday he woke up in paralysing pain, completely unable to move. "Should I call somebody?" I said, expecting a curt "no" from the man who hates to admit he is ever unwell, hates ever to make any sort of  fuss. Instead, he groaned "yes, of course you should call somebody," and I did - I called NHS direct, who asked me questions and then sent the ambulance.

A few days ago Jay and I were talking about whether or not he should be quitting his job to renovate a house. Now, fewer than 72 hours later, I was calling a friend, asking him to come straight away, throwing some clothes on my unshowered body and packing a bag of needful things for the hospital.

It turns out we didn't need to go to the hospital - not at that point, anyway. The paramedics gave him an injection of - I dunno, something - and told me how to arrange for a prescription of some stronger painkillers. We ended up at the hospital later that day for an X-ray, though, and I helped him into his hospital gown and wondered at how quickly his strong body had deteriorated.

The X-ray didn't find anything, which pretty much just means there's no fracture. He'll need an MRI and a ton of other stuff, of course. His GP, horrified by what she saw, tried to get the spinal surgeon to see him urgently but it didn't work, although it was gratifying to see a doctor so visibly shocked by his condition. It makes me feel a lot less guilty for how badly I'm coping with this whole situation. Most of us assume that, no matter how flaky we ordinarily are, we'd suddenly sort ourselves out if there was a real crisis. I'm sorry to report that this is not true - as I had feared, I'm terrible in a crisis. Yesterday I spent all day dropping things and panicking; I even got Jay's date of birth wrong when speaking to the paramedics. I also spent far too much time focusing on the fact that I hadn't been able to shower and berating the children for their troll-like behaviour. This is not helping! I screeched, repeatedly. Mummy needs to help Daddy! Stop biting each other and watch the television! It turns out they are terrible in a crisis too, but that is probably forgivable because unlike me they are four. 

I'm glad to say that Jay is much more comfortable at the moment, largely because he's off his face on very high doses of drugs. It seems the short term immediate crisis has passed, and now we need to think about what happens next. He will see the spinal specialist next Friday. Hopefully this will mean proper medical imaging and a proper plan of action. I never thought I'd be pleased for my husband to have an appointment to have surgery on his back but right now it would be a huge relief.

The next week, at least, is going to be tough. I realised, when I finally sat down on Wednesday night, that Friday was Valentines' Day. I'll be honest, this made me feel a little bit sorry for myself - this Valentines' Day, I think I can guarantee there won't be much romance from my semi-paralysed, drug-addled husband. I know it's a stupid day in any case and frankly he hates it but I usually give him a card anyway, just to watch him squirm. I haven't had a chance to buy one this year. I won't be making anything special for dinner, and there won't be any wine because I already drank it all.

Oh, Valentines' Day, you evil fiend. Did you ever make anybody happier? My little girl is just waking up to the presence of romance in the world. She saw some pairs figure skating on television and described it to me like this: Mummy, there was a man and a lady and they were doing ice sliding and I think they really, really wanted to get married. And then she smiled, embarrassed. She will be a sucker for Valentines' Day, just like I was. Am.

I don't want to tell her yet that love is not really like figure skating.

Love is helping my thirty-five-year-old husband walk down a hospital corridor, bent double, and love is stealing a wheelchair so he doesn't have to walk back.
Love is having ten minutes of down time, and being desperate to rest but drawing up a drug chart for him instead.
Love is a sincere Thank You from a husband who hates, hates, hates to be needy.
Love is the friend who comes over at seven am to look after two anxious, acting-out children.
Love is taking my boy on my lap and singing to him when I would rather do anything but, and love is the hug he gives me when he sees me crying.
Love is the online grocery order, the meal in the oven, the text that says I'm praying for you, the friend who watches my children at her house and then sends me home with dinner.
Love is even the kindness I give myself as I step into the shower, finally, choosing not to dwell on my failings but instead letting myself enjoy the respite, letting the water wash away my sorrow and my worry, at least for now.

Love is nothing like romance. Love is not made of red cardboard. Love is not a heart covered in sequins and glitter, pretty but disposable. Love is like a real human heart, messy and bloody and powerful.

This Valentines' Day, I may be short on romance but I realise that I am surrounded by love. Wherever and whoever you are, may you find love this Valentines' Day too - even in the most unexpected of places.


  1. You have all of mine, dearest. And give some of it to Jay, too.

  2. So well said. Much love to all of you.

  3. You are so right; here's to love, which is so much better than romance. Sending thoughts and prayers your way, with hopes that your Valentine's Day will be peaceful and restful.

  4. romance sucks. because it's never like a movie, or pairs skating. more like pairs skating because the dude always drops the girl and she gets hurt sometimes, and sometimes she slices his thigh open with her sharp skate, or kicks him in the balls during a lift. So maybe real love IS like skating. It hurts. And sometimes it's lovely. Praying for your man and you, dear one.

  5. This is lovely. My dad just died, and I've been surrounded by love in the form of friends who drove across town in bad traffic to bring card games and homemade soup, sisters who drink too much wine over dinner and weep with me, a husband who rises out of his own struggles to watch the kids so I can collapse for hours on end. My sister's marriage is ending after 30 years, and this kind of love is all that is keeping her afloat. Figure skating love...what a crock. Yet we are all so drawn to it.

    Also, I think I'm going to embroider "Stop biting each other and watch the television!" on a tea towel.

  6. Oh, it's not lovely that Jay is in intense pain and you are struggling to deal with the chaos. Just realized that may not have come across right.

  7. What a beautiful, honest tribute to love! I hope he finds relief soon!

  8. Lovely post. I hope Jay feels better stat and that Pink never learns that ice skaters aren't usually in love.

  9. this is SUCH a lovely post! Funny too! Sorry about Jay's back - it's crazy!!!! How will you cope?

    My favourite line is "stop biting each other" :)


  10. What a lovely post! I'm so sorry to hear of Jay's back problems - that sounds absolutely terrible. But I think you aren't giving yourself credit where credit is due. It sounds like you DID hold up pretty well through this crisis. Look at all you did and accomplished. That you thought about missing your shower and wished your children didn't act like four-year-olds doesn't diminish the fact that you called for medical help, got help for the kids, set up drug charts, took him to the hospital, and so on, and that you generally kept most of it together. That sure sounds like a lot of love from your end, too.

  11. Thank you very much. Your posting is very great.

  12. I'm sorry to hear about Jay's back pain! How hard for you to watch (and for him to endure, of course). I will be praying for full recovery and understanding for the doctors of what is wrong and for peace and patience for you as you tackle pretty much all of the other responsibilities around your home.

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