Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Not part of the plan

I'm having some trouble.

Honestly, everything is going quite well in my life: I'm healthy, fed, sheltered, clothed, loved beyond anything I deserve. I wake up in the morning next to my favorite person, spend my days at a job I usually like, occasionally work on a thesis that's still interesting to me, go to my small but more-than-adequate home, pet our purring cat, have dinner with that same favorite person. This usually-dreary month is full of visits from family and good friends, too, and that's nice.

So... what's the problem?

Here's what's up. One of my coworkers had her first baby in December: a bouncing baby girl. The child is hale and hearty, the new mom was recovering well from the birth, the new dad was excited, and all was well.

And then about two weeks ago, the new dad - my coworker's husband - collapsed. He stopped breathing, had no pulse. He was rushed to the hospital and put on a ventilator and sort-of resuscitated, but he had no brain activity. For the last 10 days, doctors had been trying whatever doctors can do, but it looked grim. And then it looked worse. On Saturday she had to make the decision no person should ever have to make, and they turned off the machines.

She became a mother and then a widow in less than two months. Her husband was only 33.

There are quite a few women in my office who are similar to her: late twenties to early thirties, married, and have a kid or two or are mulling the whole enterprise over. When we have discussed the situation, it's been common to let the end of our sentences trail off. We find our eyes wandering to the wedding pictures sitting in their little frames in our offices - just like the one she has - and asking ourselves "what if that was me?"

The deal - the way it works - is that you get married and then you have this person with you until you're keeping tabs on your grandchildren and watching Wheel of Fortune and are probably telling the same stories over and over. The deal does not include one of you being cut down in the prime of life, leaving the other alone to care for your baby. Sorry, but that shit's not what I signed up for.

I'm sure that's not what she signed up for, either. But here she is.

I went out on my lunch break yesterday and got DH a little Valentine's Day present - a week early. As I was walking back to my office, I asked myself, "Why'd you get this so early?" Well, I thought, I had some cash on hand today. And maybe the store wouldn't have it in a week. Or maybe things would get busy and I'd forget.


Before the big blizzard last week, one of my other coworkers said she dislikes it when the weather reminds her she's "just a blip". I don't know if it's my rural upbringing or my general comfort level around the great outdoors, or what, but I kind of like the way big natural events make me feel small. This stuff, however, is terrifying.

It's not the smallness factor - I'm good with being an unimportant speck in the universe, for the most part - it's the randomness. We had days to stock up on groceries and rock salt before the big blizzard. But nothing can prepare a person for something like this, and it happened essentially without warning.

So the only option, I suppose, is to hug the ones you love and, when life scares you, get them little gifts a week early.

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