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My wife lay in bed, sleeping quietly.

My mother in law was across the hall in our spare bed, and I was finally lying flat having lived through the hospital, ICU, and a myriad of endless days in the hospital watching as my wife began to remember how to eat, walk, speak, listen, and sit up. Brain surgery leads to slow progression, I found out. Sitting in the cot next to her in the hospital and helplessly reaching out as she threw up, raged, clung on and never gave up was unlike anything I’d ever been through. I’d never lived in the middle of time before. I’d never felt in my heart that the days that passed slowly melted into each other. Abnd instead of time passing me by, it hung in the air like a virus you can’t seem to shake. And at one time, when I’d be in the hospital cafeteria, or walking the hallways at midnight, I’d run into one of the other strangers visiting relatives and I’d be asked what day it was, I’s have no idea. I couldn’t feel it in me. I couldn’t tell one way or another where I was, or when it was, or how I was going to get back to what I knew.

Everything ran into each other. Quickly. And with force.

And so , when we finally got home, when I finally laid down in my own bed, with my wife next to me, I slept like I’d never slept before in my life.

And then around 5am, I felt my leg shaking.

I’m a Night Owl by nature. I always have been. My mother used to have to come in my room when I was little, and beat the bedroom wall with a broom just to get me to open my eyes. And even then, even after that, and even at that young age, I’d wake up raging. As if someone had just strangled my cat. I’ve lost friends who’ve stayed overnight and woken me up before Noon. If I have shoot and have to be on set at 6am, the only text I can manage is: “Goo…” I can’t even get through the the “Good” in “Good morning”. I am not a Morning Person.

So since I’d just been to bed about 3 hours prior, usually, I’d be bleary eyed and fuzzy if I was needed in the early morning. But since this brain tumor thing happened in our lives, I’d learned some weird Military Wake-Up Routine. If I heard Chrisanne snoring, coughing, or inhaling strangely, I shot up like a spring board. My body rose up like Dracula with a stake in his heart. And so, as I felt her hand on my leg, my body shot upward toward the roof of our bedroom, and I yelped:

‘WHERE?!”

I should’ve yelped “what?”, but the fact that I didn’t end up like Sylvester the Cat with my claws clinging to the ceiling, was a bit of a miracle in, and of itself.

“My head.” She said weakly.

This was a woman I saw once almost slice her finger completely off with a carving knife, and while she was holding her hand, with blood squirting out over the mashed potatoes, turn to me and say very calmly:

“I need a band aid.”

I then ran around the kitchen with my arms above my head, cursing like a sailor and screaming at the lamp. She continued to add seasoning.

And as I sat upright in bed, my eyes still getting used to 4am, I turned to see Chrisanne as she was on her back and wincing in pain. While she was in the hospital, I’d learned how to keep my panic under control. The center of who I am is all about honesty and where it comes from. Lying is very dangerous for me. I’m a champion liar, and it’s not a place I like to go. Too many bad habits. So…for me, I’ve been trying my hardest to speak my truth and speak it when it happens. But when my wife was faced with such a huge challenge, telling her I was frightened, or upset, or furious, wouldn’t have solved anything. So, I had to swallow it. Whatever it was I was feeling, it was nothing compared to what needed to be done.

“I’m going to go fill your prescription, and let’s call the doctor.” I said, in my best Joan Crawford voice. I was doing very well, so far, I thought.

She nodded weakly, and I went into the spare room to wake my mother in law. After I told her what was happening, she bolted out of bed, and came into our room. Luckily, Chrisanne comes from a family of stalwart and steady women. Mom could see in my eyes that I was on the verge of a mental break down, so she took everything very slowly. She walked into our room with purpose, and yet with great restraint. She came to Chrisanne’s side of the bed, put her hand gently on top of her head, and spoke very quietly and very distinctly in that gorgeous Southern lilt:

“You okay baby?”

Chrisanne, who was now is such terrible pain, she couldn’t open her eyes, nodded.

“I’m going.” I said, now breathing a little like a pregnant elephant.

Before I left, Mom and I gave her a Tylenol and Chrisanne took two of her anti-brain swelling medications, so by the time I was ready to leave for the all night CVS, she’d already had far too many pills in her. So as her brain began to implode inside her skull, her tummy also began to do the bossa nova.

I ran downstairs and sped to the pharmacy all the while, the movie of my wife playing in my head over and over, The surgery, her pain, her journey in the hospital, all the events that seemed impossible happening to both of us. The sun was rising in front of me, and my eyes ached from the earliness of the day, and I clutched the pain prescription in my hand so tightly, by the time I arrived, it was barely recognizable. I ran into the store, and headed breathless to the counter, where a small shouldered, tiny box of a man, with a handle bar mustache greeted me with a smile and soft, small voice. As time began to gain on me, I could feel my panic level rise. And…it was morning.

“I need this filled.” I said breathless.

“Okey dokey.” He said so quietly, I could barely understand him.

He went to his computer, and typed. He then typed some more. He then looked at the paper, looked at his computer, and typed again. By this time, it was nearly 5:30, and the movie of my wife was now in fast motion.

“Is there a problem?” I asked, trying desperately to control my pulsing anger.

“Well…this doctor isn’t in our system. I need the QVC number.” He said whispering.

“You need to know if he’s bought any Joan Rivers jewelry?”

He then launched into this massive explanation that included medical jargon I’m certain he made up, and attempted to tell me, in great quiet detail, exactly what the QVC number was. And I found myself not caring.

“Just please fill the prescription.” I said pointedly.

“I’m sorry Ma’am. I can’t.” he said handing it back to me.

“Listen you…my WIFE has had BRAIN surgery and her BRAIN hurts and she needs this medication for her BRAIN!! Her actual BRAIN hurts. Does this live in you in any sort of way whatsoever?!”

As I raged at this poor mustached man, a woman with very white hair and a walker turned away slowly and sat in a nearby chair. He then looked at me with complete and abject fear, and slid the prescription toward me, repeating what he couldn’t do.

“I’ll be back.” I said menacingly.

I then sped home, my heart beating furiously near my larynx, simultaneously calling Mom and daring anyone to arrest me for talking on my phone while I was in the car. Mom told me, in a sweet and calm tempo, that she called the doctor and that Chrisanne was to take more anti-swelling medication, but also the pain medication. I told her about the mustache man, and Mom then suggested I call the doctor back. And as I was making an illegal U turn on my way back to the CVS, I got a hold of our doctor. I arrived at the CVS parking lot, and as I was speaking with the doctor’s on-call substitute, he told me that the pharmacist never needed the QVC number and that he’d call himself and order the drugs.

I marched back in the store, trying my best to find my breath, to really breathe before I spoke to this man, and to keep my anger in check. And as the mustache man and I re-met, I asked him if he received a call from our doctor. He said he did, but that there was one…final…problem:

“I’ve got three orders ahead of you. I’ll have to fill those first.”

And suddenly, without warning, something snapped in me. It’s been a long, long time since this feeling has come over me this powerfully. The last time it happened like this, I was in my twenties, and I ended up breaking a plate glass window with a bar stool. The sign on the front of the bar flashed “The Closet”, and after I was finished, it flashed: “The Close”.

It was then that Shirley MacLaine’s face appeared very vividly in front of me. Her, in that scene from “Terms of Endearment” with her Debra Winger as her daughter writhing in pain in the hospital bed, and Shirley gesturing and using her topography to screech at the Night Nurse to:

“GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!”

I couldn’t get Shirley out of my heart. She stayed there, and the more I tried to calm myself, the more her face engulfed every shelf at the 24 hour CVS. Shirley as the toilet paper, Shirley as the magazine rack, and Shirley as the old woman with the walker. My face then got very hot and my hands started to shake. I could feel my feet lifting off the ground and my legs got tight and started puslating. And as my fists clenched at my side, I walked closer and closer to the counter, and pressed my nose against the sides of the mustache man’s mustache. My eyes squinted, and my voice lowered an entire octave. And I said, quietly and slowly:

“If you don’t fill this prescription, I’m going to shove my foot so far up your ass; you’re going to swallow my shoe.”

His eyes got huge and he coughed through his nose. I continued:

“Now…GIVE MY WIFE HER MEDS!”

I’ve never seen anyone in that kind of hyperspeed before.

When I arrived at the house 20 minutes later, Mom was seated in our rocking chair reading gently to Chrisanne from a book she’d found on our shelves. Her voice filled our bedroom and I could see, even with the great amount of pain Chrisanne was in, that her Mom’s text was healing her. It was calming her and keeping her still. I stood at the doorway, trying to release the mustache man and the rage that was still attached to that, and enter as gingerly as I could. Chrisanne was lying flat, trying desperately to heal, and to squeeze down a Saltine. I ripped open the CVS bag, popped open the top of the bottle and as she finished her final cracker, I popped a pill toward the back of her throat, dripped some water down her and within minutes, she was out.

As the day crept on, as the rest of the sun poured into our house, and as I left Chrisanne with her mother reading a story of life and adventure, I walked out onto the porch. I stood, a cigarette in my hand, looking out at the red and purple morning peering through the clouds, at the colors of the mornings I’ve hated since I can remember, and as I leaned forward, I looked up and screamed as loud and as big and as huge and as naked as I’ve ever done.

And then I took a breath, turned my head to the other side of the sky and gave thanks to God.

And to Shirley MacLaine.