It was Sunday. I was sitting in the ICU/day surgery waiting room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas with son Matt. The waiting room was deserted and we were waiting for the rigidly enforced visiting hour to see Marty. It was seven days since her surgery for the ruptured aneurysm, it was seven days she had been lying in a coma in the ICU.
The 2005 Masters Golf tournament was on the small television in the empty waiting room and Matt and I watched as Tiger Woods struggled to keep his lead and win his 4th green jacket. To golf people it was a huge weekend, one of only four major tournaments, to me, probably to Matt, it was a way to tamp down some of the anxiety and fear that had become omnipresent since Marty’s brain hemorrhage.
I don’t remember who Tiger was paired with that day, I know they eventually went into a playoff and Woods won. What I do remember is Tiger sinking an amazing chip shot from off the green on the 16th hole. He aimed at least 20 feet to the right of the hole, hit the ball and the ball curved around to the hole and almost came to a stop, just short of the hole and then rolled in and hit the bottom of the cup.
In the quiet of the that empty waiting room Matt and I both jumped up, clapped and for one brief instance left Parkland Hospital, left the weight of why we were there, left the anxiety of what was going to happen to Marty next and reveled with a younger red-shirted Tiger Woods as he fist pumped after a miraculous shot.
The excitement on TV was almost palpable and it was the first time in a week I had felt something other than acute sadness, fear or anxiety. The excitement quickly abated and amazingly I felt a twinge of guilt for feeling those few seconds of happiness.
It’s just plain weird to feel guilt because you feel something good, something other than fear or sorrow, but that’s the way it was for those first few days, weeks and even months. If it felt good to be with our kids or my family, I felt guilty for feeling good, if someone said something funny and I laughed and for a second and forgot about where Marty was, I felt guilty.
Simply put, if I wasn’t miserable, if I wasn’t grieving, if I didn’t try to feel Marty’s pain, if I felt happy for a moment, I felt guilty. Dumb, huh?
That has changed over the last years as we moved from the hemorrhagic stroke to the ischemic stroke, as we moved from one rehab facility to another, as we found care givers and doctors and nurses who made our life better, as I matured in the care giving process.
I have grown and while I still feel a tiny twinge of guilt when I am off enjoying parts of life that are cut off to Marty I know Marty wants me to feel and be happy. And besides, we have found a way to be happy together with each other with other. We have found the rhythm of our new normal.
Ten years later to the day when Matt and I reveled in Tiger Wood’s golf Marty sat in her wheelchair beside me as rain fell intermittently against the windows at our house on Richland Chambers. We sat side-by-side, her in her wheel chair, me in my recliner and we watched the Masters Golf Tournament, together.
I suspect Marty was not invested in this golf tournament; I mean really, its golf on TV. Tiger didn’t pull off a miraculous shot to stay competitive and there were no singular moments of thrill aside from a 21 year old from Dallas winning his first major.
This time, ten years later, Marty and I sat together, not in a sterile uncomfortable hospital environment, not worrying about the next life changing medical crises, but sitting with each other enjoying a moment together.
It was a moment that reminded me of seconds of arm raised exhilaration and then the inevitable fall back to the weeks of unmitigated fear and anxiety.
Human beings adapt amazingly well.