“When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am…”
— Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb
I just didn't hear a lot of it. Couldn't hear a lot of it. Didn't want to hear a lot of it. Not even the familiar daily banter from our children sharing what had happened at school that day. Then my wife, the Mama as I affectionately call her, started asking me questions about how I was feeling and what I should do next with the doctors, and what her and my sister talked about, and don't forget this, and don't forget that --
"Stop treating me like a child!"
That's the way it is with me. The emotional paralysis followed by the simmer to slow boil to trashing the familial stove with my angry froth. The Mama kept calm and waited for my next move.
"You make it sound like I don't know what I'm doing and that I underserve myself with the doctors, that I don't want to be well," I said.
"Sweetie, I just care about you and want to do everything we can to make sure you get better and it doesn't happen again. I'm not trying to treat you like a child."
"Well, that's what it sounds like when I talk to both you and my sister. I just want to be well, Amy. I just want to be well and it sucks that this happened and keeps happening. I take care of myself."
"I know, Sweetie. I'm sorry. I love you. I want you to be well, too."
"I just want to be well. And I'm worried when I go back in tomorrow, they're going to want me to stay in the hospital again.
"I know, I know. I love you."
All this within earshot of our two girls, already worried enough for about as much as a seven and nine-year-old can and will worry about circumstances such as these.
"Are you and Dad fighting?" Beatrice asked the Mama.
"No, honey. Just talking about Daddy getting better, that's all."
"Dad, it's your birthday," said Beatrice.
"Happy Birthday!" chimed in Bryce.
Yes, yes it is. It's my friggin' birthday and I'm alive, Sweetie. Amen.
Less than two weeks prior to this, I had a fever and painful lumps where there shouldn't have been any -- let's just say, where the sun don't shine. Over three days they seemed appear, although who knows how long they'd been brewing (there were other possibly connected precipitating factors since June). All I knew is that I had to go see my doctor, because within a week after that, I'd be traveling extensively again for work. Or not. That remained to be seen at that point.
The Mama drove me to the hospital, but on the way first we stopped by to see the girls where our friend had taken them to dinner. That was painfully awkward, because our oldest knew something was up more than us telling her that "Daddy just needed to get some tests." Her stress was obvious, although my youngest seemed more oblivious, something I was thankful for. We gave them big hugs and were on our way.
Once at the hospital and the tests run and examinations complete, the consensus was that it was an infected abscess that had to be surgically treated, although they had no idea about the other areas at that point. Spending the night in hospital was inevitable at this point and they did try to reassure me that this happens to people of all ages. During recovery I missed my girls and worked, of course, and by midday the next day, I was discharged.
The whole time before and after the surgery, the only thing the Mama and I could think about was when my sister had gotten so sick the year before. Within three days she'd gone septic and had to be sedated for nearly two weeks, with a dismal prognosis overall. The fear of multiple infections, especially getting something more virulent while in the hospital, scared us to no end. Cancer never came up, and besides a high white blood cell count, was never considered (at least as of now).
All I could think about was my family first -- what would we have to do if things went south on us. That's a dark rabbit hole no one wants to go down.
And then there was everything else I'd been working on to prep for my nonprofit Talent Board's big one day symposium and awards gala in Nashville, less than a week away at that point. So much blood, sweat and tears that I wanted to see come to fruition, to celebrate with my team, our volunteers, sponsors and research participants.
one day on the beach.
Which brings me back to my birthday and just wanting to be well. To have decades more to spend with my wife and my children. Unfortunately there's another hot spot on my body being monitored and checked for other infections, but I do feel better overall. Antibiotics consumed and no fever since surgery and the other areas have nearly healed all the way.
Yes, it was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday. But I'm alive and mostly well and live fully and comfortably within that life. Every single day. A life that's inextricably linked to my dear daughters and my amazing wife, and so many other family and friends who care enough to tell me happy birthday over and over, and that hope I feel better soon.
Because I just want to be well, to be there for them. To have all the time I need, for them and for me. I will not imagine otherwise. This is not how I am.