So I have this pair of grey shorts I like to sleep in. They are cotton, have thin seams, do not bind and are very comfortable. Now, I do not know why I don’t have six pair of these shorts, and I will sleep in something else (if I have to), but I have just the one. And Diana is always trying to wash them. It’s become a game during my recovery – where’s my shorts? Sometimes they are in the laundry hamper, sometimes folded up in the closet, sometimes they are laying on the bed. But I don’t mind a bit. And you know why? I married Wonder Woman.
Let me explain.
On September 1st, 1984 my wife and I exchanged our wedding vows. As twenty-somethings we loved the idealism of the vows – we were becoming one, embarking on a life adventure filled with fun and excitement and hearts and rainbows. Would we give ourselves fully to each other? Can’t wait! Freely give love? You bet! Respect and honesty? By the cartload! But down in the fine print there was a clause:
“Will you stand by him, comfort him, watch over him, either in sickness or in health?”
That’s an easy promise to make when you are young, healthy and staring goo-goo eyed into each other’s faces. And maybe you’ll never be tested. But after 35 years I will have to say the jury is in on Diana. She answered yes in 1984 and has proved it ever since.
I do not enjoy the pictures of me in MICU, tubed & IV’d and cold blanketed. But what bothers me most is knowing that my wife had to stand there, helpless and scared, watching me struggle to live. She was there every day standing by me, watching over me, comforting me. Just like the fine print.
There is a picture from September 1st – our 35th anniversary – of me with a cup of coffee. I am vague on the details, but I was freshly awake and wanted coffee bad. Diana lobbied for it and they finally brought me some, thickened a bit so I wouldn’t choke on it. And that is where my recovery began, as she watched over me, bathed me, kept me comfortable, talked with me to bring me out of the fog. She was there when I took my first tentative steps on a walker and, after intense efforts on her part with insurance, as I transitioned to Siskin for rehab.
The first night in rehab a young man showed up with an extra bed – he told me they had ordered it. Once Diana saw it the next day she moved in – and that’s where she lived for nearly three weeks. Now, the nursing staff was great but there is nothing like the comfort of knowing that the woman you love is right there. And she wasn’t just a pretty face. She provided the same friendship, comradeship, fun, conversation and loving care she always had.
Turns out that playing Scrabble was an excellent therapy to help me regain my cognitive function. Admittedly, she won every night (at first) but I reminded her that we were on the Brain Trauma floor and I was the patient. Over a period of a week I turned the tables and started winning, finally able to make real words and even compounding words for points and playing steps ahead. Or maybe she let me win…
Diana was there when I needed her most, leaving only to take care of daily life for herself. And always coming back with clean clothes for me and treats. She even brought me records that I had ordered, even though I couldn’t play them, because she knew how much I enjoyed them. When I bummed on the food she stopped and got me a Jersey Mike’s Original Italian, Mike’s Way. She kept me supplied with chocolate and would have done the same with red wine, but the doctor said otherwise.
But then it really got gritty.
Because of repeated UTIs and the resultant catheterizations I was having trouble waking up my bladder. I know, TMI, and I could get really graphic but won’t. You’re welcome. We were trying to get discharged and had some choices – either leave in a fixed cath or Diana could learn to cath me herself. So late at night nurse Danna patiently walked her through the process. In sickness and in health, indeed. Fortunately, we avoided all that with good drugs and Diana did not have to prove her newfound skills. But she would have.
Diana kept me moving, encouraged me, made me walk the halls with my walker, rolled me outside in the wheelchair. She never wavered in her devotion, never had a harsh word, never seemed frazzled (although I’m sure the emotional and physical toll was enormous.) And managed to keep the home fires burning for the nearly two months I was hospitalized.
So back to Wonder Woman. In 1984 Diana could pass for the Lynda Carter TV version of that famous DC Comics hero. It’s not generally known but when I met her, she actually owned a Wonder Woman costume, bought for Halloween, that she could wear convincingly. But Diana needs no costume as her wonder is not make-believe or played out in the pages of a comic book. She’s the real deal.
As the Pastor wrapped up our ceremony he left us with these words:
“The splendor of marriage is the growing in understanding of what love is by experiencing it and expressing it. There is nothing love cannot face, there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance. Little sacrifices every day will keep love alive as you say continually to each other “To your happiness I dedicate my life.”
I have no doubt my wife loves me, proved endlessly by everything she did and continues to do to get me well again.
“Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her”
Now, let me find my shorts. I think they may be in the dryer.
(graphic courtesy DC Comics)