Well into writing the followup to Widowmaker now–25K words–including a thousand more added this morning. Is it Fran Liebowitz..? Wait, three-second Internet search… yes–, it’s Fran Liebowitz who said ‘I write so slowly, I could write with my own blood and not hurt myself.’ Same here, and me without the discipline that comes with a long career as a writer. I’d dearly love to be more prolific but I sweat over every word, period, and apostrophe–every sentence in my stories is a fifth-generation descendant of the original. Therefore, there is no point recording in this blog what I’ve written on any given day, as it’s guaranteed to change. Repeatedly.
Today is the one-year anniversary of my wife’s open-heart surgery to repair a congenital valve defect. I vividly recall the glass-walled, fifth-floor waiting area of the Mayo Clinic’s St. Mary’s unit in Rochester, MN. How a certain large tree near the interstate–a lighter green than all the others–was swaying wildly in advance of a rain squall that morning. The dark gray skies. A few days earlier, Comedian Patton Oswalt’s wife, actress and writer/amateur crime-sleuth Michelle McNamara (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2369188/), had died unexpectedly, which–I don’t know why–struck me as a bad omen for my own wife’s health. Maybe it was the thought of possibly needing to tell my kids that their mother hadn’t made it, or of living out the rest of my life without my best friend, but Ms. McNamara’s death saddened and spooked me and I was nervous all morning.
Up in the waiting area, I tried to read. Couldn’t. Just stared at that big tree on the horizon and wiped at my eyes, especially when the message came through that Carrie had gone on the heart/lung bypass. Something about hearing that a machine was performing my spouse’s most vital functions didn’t sit well with me. Odd, sure: that’s the whole point of the bypass, so that the surgeon could work his miracles, but I hated those ninety minutes. I love my wife’s heart and all its contents and hearing that it had been stilled–even temporarily, and even for the best of reasons–was awful.
Flash forward a year and Carrie is fully recovered, back to working, exercising, and generally looking after us. I am grateful for my wife’s strength and tenacity. Grateful to the incredible surgeons and staff at the Mayo Clinic–hell, even to our insurance company for covering the lion’s share of the cost (figure these days there aren’t many people thanking their insurers, but ours certainly came through when it counted–Thank You). Suppose if I were wiser or more perceptive, I might’ve watched that big tree and taken some comfort. Storms come and go, and certainly some are terrible, but those that leave us standing are to be celebrated. Proof our roots are good.