This post comes from a weekly memoir writing prompt provided by The Red Dress Club.
This week’s prompt asked us to write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in our life. And we weren’t supposed to use the word “rhythm.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if when a heart attack was over, it was really over? But it’s not a simple thing like a broken arm or an appendectomy. I mean, no one keeps staring at the ex-patient wondering if one day that arm will spontaneously snap, and an appendix, once removed, cannot come back and haunt its previous owner like Marley’s ghost, though my dad swore his tonsils grew back.
My husband had a heart attack when he was fifty. The beat of our lives had been steady. Even. Get up and go to work. Come home, eat dinner, watch a little TV or read, then go to bed. Repeat five times and do yard work and errands on weekends. Then the flow was interrupted by something so unexpected. My husband was in great shape. We watched what we ate and he exercised faithfully. Sure, we had stress, but doesn’t everybody? A heart attack at fifty was not programmed into the pulse of our lives.
When he came home from the hospital, my husband needed to take things slow. I took short walks with him at first, then longer ones as his strength came back. Even after the doctor cleared him to return to work, we couldn’t just move back into the cadence we had before. I took more time planning meals to make sure they were heart-healthy. My husband had to adjust to the new routine of swallowing a slew of pills morning and night.
I was afraid all the time when he was out of my sight. What if it happened again and I wasn’t there? At night I would watch him sleep, watch his chest rise and fall, rise and fall, or press myself tightly against his back as he slept on his side so I could feel the beating of his heart. Months later I still found it hard to sleep through the night. If I drifted off and awoke in the dark and couldn’t hear him breathing, I’d put my hand on his chest or give him a little shake. Just checking. I’d praise God every morning we woke up together.
That was many years ago. Gradually, the pattern of our lives flowed back into metered measures, though we never forgot the ragtime of those heart attack days. The fear abated, I could let my sweet husband out of my sight without the perpetual knot in my stomach, and I learned to sleep again. We still sleep like spoons, but it is my husband now who presses tight into my back like he used to do, his arms enfolding me reassuringly. One thing has remained, however, from those frightful days. I praise God every morning we wake up together.