Just over three weeks ago, I wrote about the new directions my work would be taking me. A few days later, I wrote about my partner of many years on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
Not long after I posted that blog, Peter had a heart attack. Following bypass surgery, he is on the road to recovery, but it has been a bit of a ride, and we are now contemplating what unplanned-for new directions our lives, including my work, may need to take as a result of Peter’s unexpected health crisis.
So much to learn
Over the three weeks since Peter awakened me shortly before 5 am with the words: “Pam, are you awake? I think something bad might be going on with my heart,” my work –from which I almost never separate myself – moved quickly onto a back burner. Instead, my days and evenings were spent, first, going back and forth to the hospital and, now, managing Peter’s home care, while also taking on the many tasks Peter is usually responsible for that keep our household running smoothly.
As I have discovered, there is much I don’t know. Just what sound is it that leads Peter to say, from time to time: “There’s something wrong with the sump pump”? (Which, by the way, he always seems to know how to fix.) Are milk cartons paper or plastic? Where are the garbage bags? When do the plants need to be watered? Where is the stain remover? For how many seconds does he microwave the cat’s supper to, as he puts it, “take the chill off it”? Importantly over the past few weeks, on what scrap of paper did he write down the phone number for the guy who shovels our driveway?
The kindnesses of others
Fortunately, Peter and I have many people in our lives who sprang into action so I didn’t have to figure out or do all of this on my own.
I knew that, despite the early hour, I could reach out to our closest friends the minute Peter left the house in the ambulance, and that they would offer whatever we needed.
(Okay, the truth is that I did my daily wordle before I made that call, but it only took me about five minutes.)
My daughter took on developing a group email and organized an online system for scheduling visitors. Peter’s son arrived from out of town and fixed the sticking front door that had been on the pre-heart-attack to-do list. His daughter, a nurse, reassured me that everything would (probably) be all right – and she was right. Friends from farther away sent food. Others sent books to help us pass the time.
My brother sent a book of cocktail recipes: Tequila Mockingbird, in which each recipe title is a spin on the name of a literary work. While I haven’t had much time for cocktails over the past few weeks, I look forward to sampling such delights as A Midsummer Night’s Beam, A Farewell to Amaretto and The Lime of the Ancient Mariner. Stay tuned for reports.
And, more people than I can count sent love and best wishes, all of which meant a great deal.
Letting it go
My colleagues at Luke’s Place and across the province made it possible for me to ignore my work, knowing it was being well taken care of by others. For the first time since its inception 11 years ago, I did not moderate the annual in-service training we provide to Ontario’s family court support workers. That was a heartbreaker for me, but it proceeded without a hitch in my absence.
My trip to Yukon, obviously, had to be put on hold, and all my travel and accommodation bookings cancelled. At the end of that process, I was out of pocket a mere $20 for a cancellation fee charged by one airline. I couldn’t quite believe it, to tell you the truth, given the horror stories we hear about cancellation complications with giant corporations like Air Canada and VRBO. I am very sorry to be missing the opportunity to experience a Yukon winter, but I can do some of the work remotely, and the rest has been rescheduled for early fall. There will, no doubt, be other Yukon winters for me to shiver through.
Peter has a long rehab road ahead of him and, once that is taken care of, we both could benefit from making a few changes to how we live so neither of us faces this kind of situation again. Those promises to get more active need to turn into action. I should stop pulling out the butter dish every time I look at a slice of bread or a cracker. I know there are ways to make food flavours pop with less salt, and I need to start trying them out. We need to live in the moment and not keep promising ourselves of things we will do next year or the year after that.
To that end, we are finally going to book the trip we have been promising ourselves we would take for decades: the four-day, four-night train trip from Toronto to Vancouver, travelling sleeper plus class. It seems like a good way to celebrate surviving a heart attack, don’t you think?