Before this happened, I didn’t feel we’d been together that long. I was thinking, when we’re married 25 years, 40 years- we’ll have been together a long time.
Since this happened, 11 years feels like a lifetime…my entire adult life- every memory, every experience has been shared with you.
This morning I found myself thinking of all the many different things we’ve done, and then…
the curious fact that you never died in all of that time.
You lived and worked in NYC on September 11, 2001. I walked from my building in Times Square to the your building all the way on the west side. We walked around together in that surreal atmosphere of people trying to reach loved ones on cell phones that weren’t working. You were attacked by 5 teenagers in the subway at 181st and stabbed 1/2″ from your heart about 8 years ago now. I sat in the ER all night- admiring how beautiful you looked in the turquoise green hospital gown. I studied the picture of your heart on the echocardiogram as the cardiologist called in searched for nicks. You survived. You drove unwieldily vans with no rear windows across Canal street when we made two moves to and from Brooklyn, once in a teeming rainstorm where we could not see one inch beyond our windshield. I thought surely we would both die then. But we did not.
We traveled together- to Mexico for our honeymoon, Paris for our pre-baby trip, Turks and Caicos for our babymoon, among many other places: Canada, Chicago, New Mexico, California, Texas, Boston. We swam in many oceans together, but it was more just bouncing around, with the water only coming up to our waist.
Yet I did worry. I worried about 6 years ago when you started bleeding every time you used the bathroom. A blunt friend suggested to me: isn’t that related to cancer? I remember vividly laying in bed all night praying for you. You lay beside me in our Park Slope apartment sleeping and I pleaded and bargained with God to please not take you from me. If I just stayed up all night, if I just pleaded hard enough- if I just made myself sick enough.- I was sure He would hear me.
Then there was another time about 5 years ago when you started having massive nose bleeds a few times a day. Even you were shaken because you couldn’t stop the blood and it would happen so instantaneously. One minute you’d be sitting in bed beside me. The next you’d run out and I’d see blood everywhere in the bathroom- splattering the white porcelain sink and the mirror and the floor. It was frightening to see that much blood. We were about to take a plane trip to Arizona to visit my family, but after trips to various ENT specialists, the last one told you if you flew on a plane up in the air, the bleeding might not stop. He cauterized, or burned, the blood vessel shut. We canceled our trip- I called the airline from my cube on 26th Street. I was so glad we found out before we were up on the plane. You were anemic for a while- so I bought you iron pills and cooked extra healthy. You got better.
So, I find myself asking- why now? Why this way? When you survived so much and I took such good care to protect you all of these years. Why couldn’t I protect you now?
I think it’s because I wasn’t there.
It hurts to think in terms of if only way too much, but yes, I know had we been together- had I been there- I could’ve protected you from this. Maybe I would’ve complained that the water was too cold and we would’ve just went for a walk and admired the scenery. If we went in, we wouldn’t have gone very far at all- just splashed around together. No matter what, we would’ve stuck together. If you were in the water alone, I would’ve been watching you from my spot on the beach every moment. You would’ve waved and beckoned me to come back in. I would’ve shaken my head no and smiled. You would’ve tilted your head to one side and squinted your eyes a little bit in that sexy way- smiling back at me, a bit disappointed that I preferred sitting on the shore.