I was reminded today how much I loved her as I waited in the lobby of a medical office.
She was inside an examination room. I was not.
Elbows on my knees, hands folded between them, I looked down at the floor tiles and saw my feet shifting. One set of toes was even with a seam in the rows of 12-by-12-inch tiles and the other wasn’t. I moved so they both touched the line.
The other folks in the waiting room were too casual. They talked too much and too loud.
There was a drip coming from inside the water fountain.
Truth was, it was a minor procedure. Painless, even. I had nothing to worry about.
Anything could happen. The sterile instruments might not be sterile. Maybe a nurse or technician or doctor would slip. She might bleed. She might endure permanent injuries. She might die.
And I would not be there to hold her hand.
Rubbing my rough hands together so the callouses on each touched, I wondered how cold it was where she lay. I wondered if they would give her a blanket without waiting for her to ask. I bet she wouldn’t ask.
I recalled dropping her off nearly two hours earlier.
“They’re probably just going to talk to me,” she had said. “I bet they won’t even do it today.”
I told her we should find out. If it were just a consultation, I’d go and get the kids at school and wait for her call for a ride back to our house. Then we’d eat dinner and complain about how long it was taking them to actually do the job.
“Can you ask?” she said to me with her usual sheepish grin.
She was tough on the outside, but a buttercup underneath. She lived life ready to fight, stand her ground and not put up with shenanigans from anyone, but wilted like one of the roses from our yard I’d cut for her desk at work after a few days if anyone fought back.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said with a smile.
I am kind of the opposite. No one’s ever accused me of being intimidating, but I’ve never shied away from having a backbone when it truly counts.
The woman at the desk implied it was a consultation and passed my lady some forms to complete. I sat down with her for a few minutes before saying I was going to get the kids, kissing her, sitting there, kissing her and finally standing up to leave.
“I love you,” I said. “Let me know when you’re ready.”
Fourty-five minutes later, a terrifying feeling swept over me as I passed the road to her work we used to use when we carpooled together: they’d gone ahead with the procedure.
I had our children in the back seat of the car. In that traffic, I was at least 40 minutes away considering how long it’d take to get the kids to my uncle to babysit and the distance between us.
“Um, pretty sure they’re going to (do the procedure),” she texted 75 minutes after I left.
The distance between us felt even greater. She was alone. Alone. No one with her.
The word kept ringing in my head, bouncing off one side and striking the other.
I remembered the morning I told her I was seeing a nurse at work about a sore on my knee that’d become infected. Fifteen minutes later, she was there in the waiting room beside me, although I’d told her not to miss work for something so minor. Unnecessary or not, I felt anything BUT alone that day.
Then I thought of the nights my blood sugar would be low before bed and how she’d stay up to make sure I’d get up to check it periodically. I remembered the night I did not have an insulin pod because we were staying away from home. She didn’t sleep. The last thing I saw that night was her pretty face, draped with concern and care, looking down at me as she sat up in bed.
She’s always been there to make sure I am okay. Now, here I was on the other side of town when she needed me. She was surrounded by strangers, scared and – for all intents and purposes – alone.
At this point, it appears my lady – my darling and the love of my life – is going to be okay. She emerged from the medical office doors three hours after I dropped her off and rolled her deep brown eyes in disgust with the duration of the appointment.
I couldn’t say too much. I’d mentally exhausted myself in the waiting room, shifting my feet, rubbing my hands and pondering worst-case scenarios. The instant transition from worry to relief had further exhausted me.
As I wrapped my arms around her and felt hers around me, I realized how long it’d been since I’d felt such concern and, more starkly, what it meant. Not since my daughter had her tonsils out four years earlier and the “routine” procedure triggered a violent nail-biting spasm had I felt this way. I’d always left the outcome of medical procedures up to God, but when my daughter had one, that didn’t feel effective enough for someone I loved so much.
Today I felt it again. Today I worried my world might come to an end. Today I wanted to be there, holding my lady’s hand and reminding her she was not alone.
Today I felt my love.