The Beat of Life

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.

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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42 Responses to The Beat of Life

  1. Wonderful writing about a difficult time. Well-done!

  2. oldereyes says:

    Oh, yes, I very much relate. Several years ago, Muri ad a pulmonary embolism and I almost talked her out of going to the hospital. It took me a long time to stop checking on her every time I woke in the night if I couldn’t hear her breath. And, oh yes, once the fear passes, there’s gratitude for every day we’re together. Lovely, heartfelt post.

  3. Frume Sarah says:

    All it takes is one near-catastrophic moment to interrupt a seemingly comfortable rhythm. Now replaced by a new one. Thank you for sharing. And may you only know joys.

  4. What a beautiful love story. I am glad you found your rhythm again.

  5. amy098 says:

    It’s a journey of our adult life. You told the story so eloquently.

  6. Margie says:

    Wonderful post, and I understand completely. My husband had his heart attack at age 55. The biggest lesson I learned was that I had to stop trying to ‘mother’ him after he recuperated. He doesn’t always eat what he should, he doesn’t always get enough exercise, etc. But he is an adult, and he has the right to choose how he wants to live his life, just as I am the only one who is responsible for how I live mine.

  7. Beautiful! Your posts are always so heartfelt.

  8. Galit Breen says:

    You wrote such a beautiful post about such a trying time!

    I love how open you were about this and how perfectly it wove into rhythm- love, life, heartbeats.

    This -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- made me teary for what is obviously love.

  9. huffygirl says:

    Such a poignant story – glad you got your rhythm back.

  10. mrngstr333 says:

    Very well written. The feeling really comes through your words. I loved how you checked for his breathing in the middle of the night. Love is such powerful stuff!

  11. What a wonderfully written piece about a time that must have been so hard. Glad he is okay and the rhythm of your lives has evened out. Writing I really loved: “A heart attack at fifty was not programmed into the pulse of our lives.” and “Gradually, the pattern of our lives flowed back into metered measures, though we never forgot the ragtime of those heart attack days.”

    Stopping in from TRDC. :>

  12. This made me so teary, too. Love the, ‘repeats’ about your daily life. I’ve lived in fear about my Dad’s health, and now those in my family as well. Sometimes I feel like I try and ‘draw a curtain’ between those fears and myself. Usually, I don’t have much doing that with my other anxieties and fears. Touching post, CE.

    • comingeast says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s hard not to be fearful, but it robs you of enjoying each day, so sometimes we just have to put our foot down and say, “Enough!”

  13. That is a WOW! Beautifully written. I really do enjoy your posts!

  14. What a touching post and such an amazing relationship you two have, you both are really blessed! I can only imagine the fear you must have felt then, thank goodness he is doing great now.

  15. I teared up while reading this. You did an excellent job at illustrating your concern over your husband. I’m so glad to hear that he is well and that you are no longer imprisoned by those fears.

  16. Can I just say…. Beautiful? I love the way your describe your relationship with your hubby. I am so glad he is healthy now. I love it that you know Who to thank for it. Awesome Susan.

  17. Julia says:

    I can only imagine how scary this must be — so glad he’s okay! (oh, and really wonderful job with the prompt — I loved it!)

    • comingeast says:

      Thanks, Julia. He’s in great shape. Of course, he had a triple by-pass a few years after the heart attack! But we consider that fixed the problem, so I’m actually not so worried anymore.

  18. E.C. says:

    What a beautiful bittersweet memoir you’ve written. You have a pleasant writing voice.
    Thank God your husband is okay. I can’t imagine the pain your husband went through nor the fear you experienced and are probably still having from time to time. I applaud you both for overcoming and getting back into the rhythm of life. 🙂

    • comingeast says:

      Thank you, E.C. for your sweet comment. Of course, with aging, the fear creeps in again, even if it’s not about the exact same thing, and we have to push it out of our minds or we waste the wonderful years we still have left to be with each other.

  19. judithhb says:

    Oh Susan how awful for you. I remember when my husband was so very ill when we lived out of the city. For months after he came home, I wouldn’t let him out of my site and checked that he was breathing time and again.
    Thank you for sharing so eloquently. Judith

  20. Time is a wonderful healer, isn’t it? I’m excited about overcoming fear, as it has crippled most of my adult life.

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