Ok, so in the movie version of my life the backstory montage of my team has just faded to black. Cut to the night before my surgery, me in a wheelchair careening down the halls of the hotel trying to navigate to an elevator…coordination level at an all time low. There could be calliope music from the circus playing in the background (the kind you hear when the clown car enters the big top).
The night before my surgery I wheeled myself up to Matt’s hotel room. During that first surgery he was such a saint. He rearranged his schedule at work, hopped on a plane, and hung around Rochester, Minnesota for a week with me and my parents who are not the easiest company to keep. My Dad has a very strong personality that can be difficult to take sometimes, my mom is shy and quiet, and me, well, I’m like my Dad when I’m scared and let’s just say I was somewhat frightened by this entire ordeal. Throughout that entire week, he was patient, generous, and kind. Taking walks with my mom in shy silence and going for beers down the street and screaming at a TV screen during a basketball game with my dad (even though he’s not big into sports on TV).
And then there was me. He would hold my face in between his hands and look me in the eyes and tell me that he knew everything would be alright. We were in the best hospital with the best surgeons in the nation. We were in the right place and we were here at the right time. He would say it with such certainty that I believed him. Then he would kiss me in a way that made me know he loved me with every fiber of his being. It made me feel strong.
That night we sat and talked about nothing, just passing the time. But the more I talked, the more my body began to shake. I couldn’t stop it, every muscle in my core was clenched, the tension was becoming unbearable. I had been running on adrenaline and fear for the past 19 days. I was ready to snap.
I remember the look on his face when he noticed that I couldn’t keep still. He crawled across the bed and laid on top of me so we were face to face, our noses almost touching. He didn’t say a word because there was nothing that could be said to make any of this magically better. But it was the physical act of being close to me. There is nothing more intimate than simply being near someone, of feeling their touch, and being able to look into their eyes without the need or want to look away. You have to be emotionally close to be physically close.
Something about this made me cry. I took a deep breathe and let it out as a sob. I remember it was very quiet and the quick, sharp sound that it made pierced through the calm of the room. I wondered how many times the walls of this hotel had heard that pitiful sound. It was the first time I had cried since all of this began. I cried so hard that my chest heaved up and down with sobs that did not even make a noise because my breath couldn’t catch up to them. Tears poured down my face and after a few seconds I was gasping for air. Matt buried his face in my neck and gently kissed me. I could feel his tears on my t shirt and in my hair. It felt good to be weak for a brief moment. To cry like a child in someone else’s arms.
(I believe some southern women refer to this as the “ugly cry” and you are never supposed to indulge in this act of treason against delicate femininity in front of boyfriends or mothers-in-law…but I was at the end of my rope people. I let my mascara run, and I used my shirt sleeve as a tissue.)
In life we have to fight the really important battles alone. Your friends and family can only walk with you for part of the way. Eventually you have to walk (or be wheeled) through the door into the surgical suite and let it close behind you. But laying with Matt that night reminded me that even though the door closes behind you and you have to fight for yourself, there are still people there who love you, just beyond the threshold, on the other side of the door.