I last wrote from the hospital about a month ago. Yesterday, I returned to the hospital, driving Ben to his follow-up appointment. In the intervening month, he has found recovery to be a painful, slow, and draining experience. I have watched as he has suffered through pain, weathered discomfort, and been flattened by fatigue. The hardest part of the recovery though, has been the emotional toll. He has described it as brittleness, which seems like a stellar description. If I had been asked ahead what I thought recovery from heart surgery would entail, I would have responded with things such as limited activity, changes in diet, exercise plans, and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure. I would not have anticipated the emotional component.
I try to figure out my place in the recovery. I feel helpless in one sense, as I watch his frustration and suffering. And yet, I know that I am helpful in the practical sense: driving him places, carrying heavy things, being a friend. But trying to figure out how to be the friend (of only three months, at that!) -- while not being the caregiver, not the doctor, not the therapist, not the wife -- has been tricky to pull off. Add to that our adjustment to all the emotional factors, and we've got one heck of a challenge on our hands. But he is a fighter, who somehow has managed --while recovering-- to put full days in at the office, entertain his daughters for a holiday weekend, and do all his online Christmas shopping (well ahead of me, who is still shopping the old-fashioned way on Christmas Eve). And I am a patient and optimistic friend, who has managed in the past month --while supporting his recovery-- to finish my semester's classes, maintain a 4.0, attend five Christmas parties, visit with dozens of friends, and buy a new car. There's a lot of strength there between the two of us.
Last night we visited with his old college friend, Ed, and his wife Jackie. Such lovely, interesting people! They live in a modern home filled with art and artifacts from a lifetime of travel and living abroad. They converse easily and intelligently on an array of subjects, and between the two of them, converse in French, Jackie's native tongue. A variety of magazines and newspapers are stacked in the recently arrived mail, demonstrating the scope of their interests, and the bookshelves throughout the house are chocked full. When I grow up, I want to be as interesting as they are. :-)