Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's!

 I love my husband and he loves me. Often, we look at each other and say, "I don't think anyone else could have lived with me this long and still be in love with me!"  We both have our idiosyncrasies and we know it.  Over the years, we have laughed together, prayed together, cried together, parented together,  worked together, celebrated together, and even gone out into the backyard to square off with water pistols when the tension was getting to us.  (Our neighbors loved that coping mechanism and got to the place where they would bring out the lawn chairs to watch:) As Valentine's Day rolls around, we have a lot of memories but for some reason, this one stands out, proving that not only do opposites attract, but that real marriages don't look like the stuff that goes on most hearts and flowers greeting cards...:)
      In June of 2008, our son was scheduled for an early ACT exam on a Saturday morning.  For the  two days before that, my husband had had increasing pain with an abscessed tooth. In fact, he had gone to the dentist and been placed on an antibiotic and a pain killer.  What none of us knew was that the antibiotic wasn't effective against the infection he had.  The pain killer masked the pain on Thursday so we thought he was getting better. But on Friday, the pain began to build until by 8:00 p.m., I was begging Phil to call the dentist and not wait until 1 in the morning, at which time I figured we'd have to make a run to the emergency room. He didn't want to bother the dentist, however, and said he could handle the pain. Famous last words:)
     At midnight, he was in agony and  sure enough, I soon found myself driving him up  University Avenue towards a local hospital. The weather was about to turn nasty and as we drove towards one very high  hill, I saw something I had never seen before - lighting came straight down in two columns from the sky to the top of that hill. It looked like two gigantic fluorescent tubes side-by-side.  I am terrified of lightening storms and tornadoes so you can imagine how I felt when I saw that.  At first, I was in shock, thinking, "Okay. Lightening doesn't do stuff like that. It must have been a trick of my imagination..."  But even so, I white-knuckled the steering wheel and began to silently pray that we would  get to the ER before Armageddon broke loose... Which, thankfully, we did.
   When we got to the ER, however, we discovered that A) the whole area was being remodeled and B) no one cared that we were there.  We found a book to sign but no one talked to us, questioned us, gave us the time of day, or even glanced our way.  For 45 minutes.    At that point, Phil, who was in excruciating pain, asked me to drive him to another hospital.  He knew from watching the t.v. in the lobby that a super cell storm was right over us, literally, but he was in so much pain, he didn't really think about it.
   Until I started driving us off the ER parking lot.  Before we even got to University Avenue, I was cringing over the steering wheel, my eyes barely positioned to see above it, babbling, "Oh, God! Help us!!  Please, help us!!!" All this while lightening lit up the entire area where we were about every 30 to 40 seconds.  I was no longer seeing a fluorescent light off in the distance, instead I felt I was sitting right smack dab in the middle of one and I was terrified.
Nighttime thunderstorm
    In the middle of my cringing, crying, and somewhat erratic driving, my husband spoke calmly but firmly.
    "Cathy, turn left onto University."
    "But.. but.. the hospital is the other way...  Oh God, pleeeassse don't let us die out here!!!"
    "Cathy, it's okay...  Just turn the car... left.. that's it.  And watch out for the divider in the middle of the high way.  Good. You missed it. You are doing fine. Now... Just ease into the far lane and... turn off at the first parking lot you see."
    "But you are in pain and..."  Lightening illuminated the interior of the car completely.  I shut my eyes and yelled.  Literally.  Momentarily.  When I opened them again, my foot was shaking against the gas peddle.  "But..but... can you drive??"
    Phil answered firmly.  "Yes, I can drive. I feel fine.  Just ease over into that furniture store parking lot. That's really good. You're doing good.  Now... watch out for the yellow parking space divider.  That's good. Now put it in park and put on the brake. Okay...  I'm going to count to three and then we're both going to jump out and run to the other side of the car so we can swap places. Ready? "
     He did and we did. But even though we ran like maniacs around the front of the vehicle, by the time we jumped into our respective places and slammed  the doors shut, we were both soaked to the skin with water running in rivulets off of us and literally pooling up on the floorboards.
    At that point, I curled up into a ball on my seat, trying to make myself as small a target as possible, with my face pressed against my knees and my hands covering my head.  As Phil  steered us down the road, I  alternated between crying, praying out loud and sneaking peeks at Phil to make sure  he was not being incapacitated by pain. Every so often, guilt would take precedence over  terror and  I  would blurt out how sorry I was that he was in pain and yet he was having to drive. Each time he assured me he was fine.
     I only looked at the road twice on that crazy ride home and both times I saw signs of flash flooding on the road ahead. The second time, we were still about a mile from our house and I could see the water was pretty deep just in front of us. I fearfully asked Phil if it was deep enough to cause our brakes to go out. He calmly told me that would not be a problem. (He also wisely refrained from telling me the water was deep enough to cause the engine to stall out on us and that if it did stall, there was nothing we could do - we'd just have to wait it out...).
    We finally got home about 2 in the morning, looking like water rats on a bad day.  We fell into bed but it took me a while to calm down before I could sleep. Phil, however, went to sleep right away. I'm sure he was exhausted but I was still seeing flashes of lightening every time I closed my eyes. I wondered if this was what it was like to have LSD go bad on you... If so, I was truly thankful I'd never touched the stuff.
   I woke up early the next morning to the sound of Phil softly saying, "Thank you, Jesus.  Praise God... Thank you."  Phil is pretty quiet and this is not typical for either of  us.  Especially in the morning.   I opened my blood-shot eyes and gave him a reptilian stare.  He was happy!  At 6 in the morning, after the worst night of my life, he was literally full of praise.
   When he saw that I was awake, he became animated.  "Cathy!  Do you realize that I have had no pain medicine for hours??? You know I didn't take any before we went to the hospital because I thought they would give me some.  And then they didn't do anything for me but  still,  I slept soundly from 2 in the morning until now!!! With no pain!!! Thank you, Lord,  for helping me!!"
    He told me his tooth was just beginning to hurt a little bit but that he'd had no pain from the time he started driving us home until  well after the alarm went off that morning.
    As he was lying there, filled with gratitude, I have to admit, I was lying there thinking that if he ever ignored my advice again and dragged me out at 1 in the morning for an ER run in the middle of a super cell storm, I would rearrange his innards.  Honestly, those were the exact words going through my mind.  Fortunately, I had enough self-control not to say them.  (If any person should have been so misguided as to ever put me on a pedestal, this story should take care of that mistake... :-)
    Phil began to experience some mild pain again before I left to take David to the school for his ACT test.  WE were both tired and had little to say to each other as we went through the drive-through to get caffeine - and lots of it...
   The only thing I really remember saying to David was that if his dad ever put me through another night like that, he, David,  would be short a parent.  The only thing I remember him saying was that he hated ACT tests and would be glad when this one was over.  As far as I can recall, the rest of the ride transpired in silence.
    Although Phil came through as a trooper and got us home through that super cell, no small feat with a gibbering wife practically curled up on the floor board, we were headed for round 2 as his pain continued to build that Saturday.  He still didn't want to bother the dentist  so this time  I went out to the car to run an errand and as soon as I got in the car, I called the dentist, babbled about our awful and unproductive experience the night before and asked the dentist to help us but not to let my husband know I had called him. I normally don't do anything behind my husband's back but I have to admit I was desperate not to repeat the scene from the night before.
   I hadn't made it to the store when my husband called me on my cell phone and said, "Dr. So-and-So is so nice!  Here it is late Saturday afternoon, his day off, and he called me just to check on me and see how I'm doing..."  He then  asked me to pick up a prescription the dentist had called in for him, which I was more than happy to do.  Later on that evening, I told him that our dentist truly was an awesome guy but that he'd also gotten a heads-up from me.
  I enjoy the atmosphere of  hearts and flowers  on  Valentine's day.  But I prefer  the real thing and it's been my experience that most of the advertising on this day has little, if anything, to do with the real warp and woof of married life.
  I love my husband.  He is truly, a steely-eyed missile man when it comes to  super cells and hysterical wives. He loves me too. I'm the one who knows when to call the dentist. Together, we make a great team.

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