When I first saw Michael shaking on the floor I was overcome with an odd sensation of not quite knowing what to do or what to feel. It was as if my spirit left my body. It was more than surreal, it was like a dream and I thought of all the bizarre dream sequences that you see in movies. That soon there would be cackling laughter and things floating by. That Michael might lift off the floor and out the window. That the room would surely spin and mad hatters and dormice would appear.

Mechanically I got on the phone with 911 and told them I had no idea what was going on. He didn’t feel well, he took Excedrin PM, he went to sleep, his stomach must have bothered him, TUMs all over the floor.

I thought that I should seem more upset when I called 911. What does a stricken spouse whose mind has not caught up with reality yet sound like? Suppose the medicine poisoned him and they would play this 911 call at my trial? Lawyers, it seems, never turn completely off. My head played reels of the emotional courtroom scene. I would never poison my hunny bunny! NEVER! as I wailed on the witness stand. Could I ever explain how good and loving and thoughtful and selfless Michael was? Could I ever convince anyone of how much I loved him and would never harm him? I had these flashes of my trial in my head.

Was I a bad wife for trying to come up with an alibi for the murder of my husband that I didn’t commit and who was still alive? Or was I just a complete and utter basketcase?

I once had a therapist tell me that I wasn’t going crazy because people who are going crazy don’t know they’re going crazy. Wrong. I pretty much knew I was going crazy.

The EMTs arrived and told Michael to blink if he heard her and he did. That was the first time I was truly aware of what was happening. He looked terrified and my heart just ached. I bent down and said, “It’s okay honey, it’s okay.” Across the room I spied the muddy sneakers I had thrown in the garbage 2 nights ago.

My head raced, “He pulled those things out of the GARBAGE?” It seemed incomprehensible to me.

Michael had a tendency to save his “good clothes” and wear and re-wear his old ones. You would give him a gift of tee shirts and he would put them in a drawer saving them for who knows what. I had even dragged him one night out to get new tee shirts just a few weeks before. I told him to pick them out. He chose ones with funny sayings. Aside from Harley Davidson tees, he liked those best. His favorite tee shirt of all time said, “It’s a sick world. And I’m a happy guy.” These tee shirts had similar snarky sayings on them. I was sure he would wear them. Last week I found them in his drawer, still with the tags on.

So it was up to me to rid him of his worn clothes. I would just tell him when a certain clothing item’s number was up. Once I ripped a threadbare shirt off him. He thought it was funny but kept protesting, “That was my favorite shirt!” He’s wearing it in his passport picture. Every time he looked at his passport he would say, “That was my favorite shirt.” and I would say, “Oh please.”

Even though he usually kicked and screamed, he would give up the shirts, pants, jackets, shoes whatever when I decided the expiration date had come and gone. The expiration date on those sneakers was long since past. They were cheap sneakers to begin with, they had holes in them, they were muddy. He couldn’t even get them on anymore and just flattened out the back so that they slipped on. They were long past their prime and I had been complaining about them for weeks. He couldn’t get his feet clean anymore. Normally this would bother him. He seemed to shrug it off.

I told him they were going out, good bye…see ya. He didn’t say much. Looking back on it, I doubt he heard me or was cognizant. He had plenty of other sneakers. Good ones, cheap ones, you name it. Plus he should be wearing his waders down to the river. Never did I dream he would go get them out of the garbage. How strange.

When I saw them there I thought that was the oddest thing I had ever seen him do. Well, lots of things were odd that summer but that was really strange.
I told the EMT what I gave him, she said “Didn’t you say he’s allergic to aspirin? That has aspirin in it!” No it doesn’t. I showed her the bottle.

Much later I would relate all of this to Michael who never remembered this despite the fact that he was awake and alert for all of this. I told him about my mental processes which he found really funny. For months he would say, “Remember when you tried to poison me?”

We got to the ER. It was the same ER, in fact next to the exact room, I was in when I had kidney stones. I had flashes of Michael that night. He was so funny. For someone who was chronically impatient in day-to-day situations (no one drove fast enough for him, took a turn fast enough, came or went fast enough), he was amazingly patient in “uncommon” situations. He managed to amuse himself greatly. He managed to joke a lot with me and even took a sip of the disgusting contrast liquid I had to drink before the ultrasound and pronounced it “tasty.” That was so funny.

I thought of that night…of him spinning down the hall for a soda, of him telling me he went into the wrong room which he thought was so funny….I was in so much pain that night but he kept me highly amused. For all my independence and insistence that I can do and will do anything alone, when I think of the times I really wanted the comfort of a partner, it was times like that night in the ER. And he never failed to come through. He always comforted me when I needed it and he did it in his own funny little way.

As I stood there outside the room where he was being attended to, I could hear him seizing over and over again and all I could think about standing there next to room were the funny little scenes from just a few months ago. He was there when I needed him and now he needed me and I was helpless to do a damn thing for him.

The doctor said, “Your husband is a very sick man.” But they couldn’t tell me what he was sick from. They mentioned virus. They mentioned stroke. They mentioned tumors but it seemed a far off possibility.

What did a stroke mean? Would he get better? I had images of 30 years of Michael in a wheelchair. He would hate that. I could not stand knowing how much he would hate that. I asked if there was such a thing as complete recovery for stroke victims. He said there could be. I realized I knew nothing about strokes.

Michael and I never ever talked about death. It wasn’t that we were afraid to. We had wills, we had life insurance, but we never talked about long-term illness other than Michael would say if he was ever debilitated to shoot him before letting him linger.

We thought death and serious illness was far off into the future. We were still planning retirement…when, how, what.

In those early hours I had to believe this was just a bump in the road. This was just another chapter in our amazing love story.

We had weathered so many storms together.

We had gone through so much and we had been there side by side for it all.

We would get through this.

I had no idea, and don’t think I could have handled the thought, that this was the beginning of the last chapter.

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