If you thought that the last post was the end of the story....well....so did I. Turns out, it wasn't. Just because the really hard part was over didn't mean that all was going to be easy. We still faced a long and difficult recovery, our return to work and trying to figure out just what we were going to do about the hospital bills (they are gracious not to mail $75,000 in medical bills to you directly after you get home from open heart surgery but we knew they were probably sitting on somebody's desk with stamps on them). Oh yes....and we had to do this while trying to quit smoking which only added a very surreal air to the whole experience...somewhat like trying to swim with a fish bowl on your head.
We were blessed to have a group of people volunteer to bring healthy meals to the house every night so I didn't have to worry about shopping or spending time in the kitchen and could spend more time taking care of Brennis. That was amazing and so helpful. Every day somebody would call or text and let me know when they were coming and they usually got to visit with Brennis for a few minutes and we got some wonderful healthy food. Brennis' appetite still wasn't great but it was helpful to have something available when he was feeling hungry.
We settled into our new life fairly well. Brennis' complications were few and minor. The visiting nurse was sweet and informative and we soon no longer even required her services. Brennis was taking baby steps toward a full recovery and I was thinking about returning to work a few hours a day to relieve the artists who had been taking care of things while we had been gone. While I'm certain that things seemed to be moving too slowly for Brennis they were moving far too quickly for me. I wanted to stop and spend all of my time with Brennis. I wanted him to get better but I was enjoying the time with him. We hadn't had the chance to just sit and relax like this for years and it felt nice.
Brennis and I met in 1986 but didn't really get together as a couple until 1991 after I graduated from college. When we first moved in together I opened one of his drawers and it was filled with unopened bills. Several months of unopened bills. I asked him what they were there for. He was working three jobs at the time so I knew he had enough money to pay them. "I just pay those when I think about it," he said. I opened the envelopes, got out his checkbook and the mothering began.
It's not that Brennis needed another mother. The mother he has is perfectly wonderful and he certainly was capable of doing anything and everything he would ever desire. This was totally my bag......my desire to take care of him and make his life better. It's how I am wired. I like to make things better. Because I loved Brennis I wanted to do that for him especially. I wasn't always successful.....often in my attempt to make things better I make them worse or, at the very least, more complicated. The important thing is that I try. At least that's what I think.
Those first few years together felt a lot like what we were going through during his recovery. We spent a lot of time together, just sitting and talking. We hadn't yet established the weird patterns couples usually establish after they've been together for a thousand years. We just enjoyed each other's company and spent any free time we had together. Sitting next to him in our den now twenty years later felt good. It felt like nothing had ever changed. Any of the conflicts, dramas and heartaches had been washed away. We were starting fresh.
I am the type of person who likes people....just not a lot of people and not all the time. If it hadn't been for Brennis I likely would have ended up living in a studio apartment eating beans out of the can with a plastic spoon for the rest of my life. I would have had friends and I would have been social but I was shy and insecure and didn't really need to have people around me all of the time. Brennis made me feel good about myself and he loved to be around people. I began to love it too. Many times during the past twenty years I have looked up while Brennis was walking through the house and thought quietly to myself "How have I managed to stand living with someone for all these years and how has he been able to stand living with me?" I am a perfectly nice person but I am a mess. I am moody, compulsive, sometimes clean, sometimes messy always unpredictable. We just fit together naturally, Brennis and I. Living with him was just like living alone....except he was there and we loved each other and laughed a lot.
Now it felt like life was starting over again. Going through what we went through made me realize how much I really loved Brennis. Almost losing him and almost losing the life that we created together frightened me more that I would have ever imagined. While I didn't want his recovery to take forever I wanted this feeling to last forever. I knew it couldn't but I also now knew that it was in my power to make it a part of my life....it was my choice.
We all have the power to feel that connection with people we love. We all have the ability to spend more quiet time with people we care about. We are all able to tell the people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Why don't was take advantage of these opportunities more than we do? Life is complicated and relationships are beyond complicated. There are as many reasons for us not doing these things are there are people in the world.
Stripping away all of the unnecessary baggage from our lives....from our relationships....is a great place to start. Relationships (whether they are familial, friendly or romantic) get "dusty" over time and it's hard to see them as clearly as we used to. Clear off the dust. Forget about old hurts, irritating habits, petty fears. If your relationship with this person is worth anything it is worth valuing it enough to spend time on it. There is no secret. You just do it.
The one thing I said to people over and over again while we were going through the experience last year: Don't miss an opportunity to tell the people you love that you love them. I would like to amend that now. Don't miss an opportunity to sit next to your friend and laugh with them. Don't miss an opportunity to snuggle with your significant other. Don't let another day go by wondering if you should call your mother (or father or niece or sister). These may seem like small gestures but they are not. They are the manifestation of love and that energy is powerful. Try to be conscious of the people around you and make the decision to share this energy with them. If you're lucky, twenty years from now you'll still be there for each other.